Operator's frequent kneeling results in compensable tendon injuries
Case name: Grundmeyer v. Corn Products International, Inc., No. COA11-602 (N.C. Ct. App. 12/20/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that an operator was entitled to compensation for his occupational diseases.
What it means: In North Carolina, an injured worker may establish a loss of wage-earning capacity when he has physical limitations and pain that render him unable to work.
Summary: A process/utility operator for a corn products manufacturer frequently knelt down while working. He experienced pain in his feet. Orthotic inserts in his boots did not relieve the pain. Two years later, he felt a pop in his foot when he stood up from kneeling. He felt immediate pain in his foot and ankle, which swelled up. He was diagnosed with tenosynovitis and torn or ruptured tendons. He had to use a cane to walk because of the constant pain he felt in his foot and leg. The operator filed an occupational disease claim. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the operator was entitled to benefits.
The manufacturer argued that no evidence showed that the operator's tenosynovitis was caused by trauma in his employment. The court disagreed, explaining that the operator's doctor opined that the tenosynovitis was more likely than not caused by the repetitive overuse of the operator getting into and out of a kneeling position over the course of his 23-year employment. The court concluded that the operator's repeated pulling and stretching of his tendons during his job resulted in an occupational disease.
The court also found that the tendon ruptures and tears constituted an occupational disease. Although the manufacturer argued that the rupture and tear resulted from one maneuver, the court explained that the tendons gradually became unhealthy.
The court held that the operator was entitled to temporary total disability benefits. He said he was unable to earn income due to his pain, which limited his ability to stand, walk, or sit for extended periods of time. The operator had not worked since the manufacturer last provided him with sedentary work.
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February 22, 2012
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