Company's knowledge of injury triggers liability for surgery costs
Case name: Saylor v. Westar Energy, Inc., No. 100,012 (Kan. 08/05/11).
Ruling: The Kansas Supreme Court held that a company was liable for the cost of a foreman's knee surgery.
What it means: In Kansas, the designation of an accident date due to a repetitive use injury is not a factual determination of the precise moment at which the worker suffered the injury.
A foreman for an energy company injured his left knee on the job but did not report the injury as work-related. The foreman's job duties required him to work on his knees on rough ground and asphalt for long periods of time, to climb in and out of manholes, and to climb up and down ladders. Years later, he experienced pain that became progressively worse. He recalled telling his supervisor that it was work-related, but the supervisor did not fill out any paperwork. He underwent knee replacement surgery. While recovering from surgery, he learned from a coworker that his injury might be considered work-related, making him eligible for workers' compensation. He filed a claim. The Kansas Supreme Court held that the company was liable for the cost of the foreman's surgery.
The company did not dispute that the foreman's knee injury was related to his job duties, but disputed the accident date. The company said that the foreman was not physically on the job on the accident date, but was home recovering from surgery. The court disagreed and found the accident date was properly set on the date the company received notice of the foreman's claim based on state law. The company argued that the law defeated the purposes of allowing an employer an opportunity to investigate and furnish prompt medical treatment. The court said the legislature was informed of the potential results the company said were absurd, but chose to enact the law anyway. The court clarified that the last day worked is no longer the bright-line rule for determining the date of injury in repetitive trauma cases.
The company also argued that it should not be responsible for paying medical bills associated with the foreman's surgery because it did not authorize the medical treatment. The court found that the company had knowledge of the foreman's work-related injury before his surgery, and it refused or neglected to provide treatment. This rendered the company liable for the cost of the surgery.
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September 12, 2011
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