Case name: Sanderson v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, No. 1 CA-IC 11-0016 (Ariz. Ct. App. 11/22/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that a driver was not entitled to benefits for a head injury he sustained in a fall at work.
What it means:
In Arizona, the effects of falls due to fainting spells are generally not compensable unless the employment places the worker in a position increasing the dangerous effects of such falls.
Summary: A delivery driver was found bleeding and unconscious on the floor by a coworker. The aisle where the accident occurred was 6 feet wide with nothing that could have caused him to trip and fall. The driver did not have any memory of his injury, but he told the paramedics and hospital workers that he became dizzy and fell, hitting his head. He sustained a traumatic brain injury. A neurologist concluded that he experienced an episode of low blood pressure that caused him to faint. The driver sought benefits. The employer's insurer denied the claim. The Arizona Court of Appeals held that he was not entitled to benefits.
The driver's fall satisfied the time, place, and circumstances of the course of employment element of compensability. The ultimate issue was whether the driver's injury arose out of his employment. The court said that idiopathic falls include falls that are the result of fainting spells. These falls are generally not compensable unless the employment places the worker in a position increasing the dangerous effects of such a fall.
The unexplained injury presumption only applies where no evidence permits a reasonable contrary inference. Here, the driver's fall was not unexplained. He provided a history of feeling dizzy and fainting to witnesses after his injury. The medical evidence established that he fell backward because he fainted and he took no action to break his fall, causing his head to strike the concrete floor. The inability to state with certainty what caused him to faint, provided it did not arise out of his work duties, did not make the fall or injury unexplained. The neurologist's inability to identify a particular reason for the driver's low blood pressure did not undermine the neurologist's opinion.
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January 12, 2012
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