Police chief wins benefits for neck injury despite past job as bull rider
Case name: Whiteley v. City of Poplar Bluff, No. SD31287 (Mo. Ct. App. 10/11/11).
Ruling: The Missouri Court of Appeals held that a police chief was entitled to compensation for his neck injury.
What it means: In Missouri, where the work nexus is clear, the worker is not required to show that he would have been equally exposed to the risk in everyday life.
A police chief for a city injured his neck while washing the inside of the windshield of his patrol car. He later developed a muscle spasm that caused a visible knot on the side of his neck. Police officers were responsible for keeping their patrol cars clean for the city's image and safety reasons, and they were expected to wash them at the end of each shift. The chief was diagnosed with acute cervical strain and preexisting degenerative joint disease. The chief previously worked as a professional bull rider and was treated for several injuries, but none in his neck. The city denied the chief's workers' compensation claim. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the chief was entitled to benefits.
The court found that the chief sustained an injury by accident because he showed he was engaged in work integral to his employment. The court found a clear nexus between the job as a police chief and keeping patrol cars clean. The court pointed out that the city provided an area at the police station with supplies for officers to clean their cars.
The court also said that while the chief had a preexisting condition, there was no evidence showing that it was symptomatic. Also, a doctor's report refuted the city's argument that the chief suffered a neck injury in a prior car accident.
The court found the chief was entitled to past medical expenses for injection therapy because the injections were appropriate and related to his accident. There were two conflicting medical opinions. One doctor's opinion was based on the incorrect assumption that the chief did not have numbness and tingling in his hand, so the opinion was given lesser weight.
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November 7, 2011
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