Therapist's expectation of worsening of injury blocks claim for bunions
Case name: Landry v. Carolinas Healthcare Systems, No. 4905 (S.C. Ct. App. 11/09/11).
Ruling: The South Carolina Court of Appeals held that a therapist was not entitled to benefits for the worsening of her preexisting foot condition.
What it means: In South Carolina, a worker is not entitled to benefits for the worsening of a preexisting condition if the worsening of the condition was not unexpected.
Summary: A radiation therapist spent a majority of the workday standing on her feet. She began experiencing significant pain in her feet after rubber mats were removed from the control room. A doctor noted that the therapist had previously suffered from bunions since she was 13 years old. The therapist underwent surgeries on both feet. The doctor noted that the conditions in her feet were structural deformities, which were more likely than not aggravated by being on her feet for long periods of time at work. She sought benefits, alleging an accidental injury to her feet caused by repetitive trauma and resulting in stress fractures. The South Carolina Court of Appeals held that she was not entitled to benefits.
The court pointed out that the therapist was aware of her physical condition and knew which activities would worsen her symptoms. During previous treatment, she was warned by her doctor that standing on her feet for prolonged periods would worsen her bunion condition. The therapist said that she was aware that the amount of standing her job required was hazardous to the condition of her feet, but she continued in her job. The court found the worsening of her condition was not unexpected.
The court was not swayed by the therapist's argument that she did not intend or expect to be injured as a result of her repetitive work activity and that her doctor did not specifically warn her to change occupations or stay off her feet.
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January 16, 2012
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