Technician not barred from asserting aggravation causation theory
Case name: Starkey v. Builders Firstsource Ohio Valley, L.L.C., No. 2010-0924 (Ohio 07/07/11).
The Ohio Supreme Court held that a technician could bring his claim for an aggravation of preexisting osteoarthritis, even though it was not considered at the administrative level.
What it means: In Ohio, an aggravation of a preexisting medical condition is a type of causation, so it is not a separate condition or distinct injury. Therefore, a worker can present evidence of this theory of causation on appeal even if it was not addressed administratively.
A service technician felt pain in his left hip when he leaned back and turned to his right to avoid being knocked off a ladder while installing a window. He sought workers' compensation benefits for his hip and leg. He later sought to include a claim for degenerative osteoarthritis of his left hip. A hearing officer allowed the claim and the industrial commission declined review. The employer appealed. On appeal, the technician argued that he suffered an aggravation of his preexisting osteoarthritis. The builder asserted that the technician could not assert a condition not addressed in the administrative order. The Ohio Supreme Court held that the technician could bring his claim for an aggravation of a preexisting injury.
The employer argued that the proof necessary to demonstrate direct causation differs from that needed to establish aggravation of a preexisting condition, so each theory of causation was a separate claim that must first be considered at the administrative level. The court explained that the condition was degenerative osteoarthritis and the theory of causation was an aggravation of a preexisting injury. The court said that a worker is not required to advance a specific theory of causation at the administrative level if he wishes to use that theory in the trial court.
A dissenting judge said that a claim alleging direct causation was different from a claim alleging an aggravation of the same condition because each required different elements of proof.
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August 25, 2011
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