Inability to work due to work-related injury alone curbs nurse's claim
Case name: Pursley v. Christian Hospital Northeast/Northwest, No. ED96496 (Mo. Ct. App. 12/13/11).
Ruling: The Missouri Court of Appeals held that a nurse was not entitled to benefits from the second injury fund.
What it means: In Missouri, to trigger liability of the second injury fund, a worker must show that his preexisting disability "represented an obstacle or hindrance to his ability to work."
An emergency room nurse contracted hepatitis C while working. He sought workers' compensation benefits from the hospital and the second injury fund, claiming that he was permanently and totally disabled due to a combination of his occupational disease and preexisting injuries. The nurse and the hospital settled his claim. The Missouri Court of Appeals denied the nurse's claim against the fund.
The court found that the nurse's hepatitis C alone resulted in his permanent and total disability. The nurse said that as a result of the hepatitis C, he suffered depression, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, poor focus, indecisiveness, and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. He said he stopped working because of his symptoms. The nurse told a vocational rehabilitation counselor that the primary reason he was unable to work was because of his hepatitis C symptoms.
The court said that the medical reports supported a determination that the hepatitis C rendered the nurse permanently and totally disabled. One doctor's opinion that he was permanently and totally disabled as a result of his preexisting depression combined with the hepatitis C was not credible. The doctor's opinion that he suffered a preexisting permanent partial psychiatric disability was based on an inaccurate interpretation of the nurse's work history.
The court also mentioned that to trigger fund liability, the nurse had to show that his preexisting disability "represented an obstacle or hindrance to his ability to work." However, the nurse acknowledged that his depression was not an obstacle or hindrance to his ability to work. Therefore, he could not establish fund liability even if his permanent total disability resulted from the occupational disease alone.
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February 2, 2012
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