Comp awarded when worker's bulky brace blocks vision, causes fall
Case name: Moorehead Electric Co., Inc. v. Payne, No. 93A02-1105-EX-457 (Ind. Ct. App. 12/29/11).
Ruling: The Indiana Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to benefits for the reinjury of his shoulder.
What it means: In Indiana, a subsequent injury resulting from a worker's blocked vision due to his wearing a bulky medical device for his compensable injury can be compensable.
Summary: A worker injured his shoulder during the course of his employment for an electric company. The company provided him with benefits and authorized two surgeries. The worker was instructed to wear a bulky shoulder brace 24 hours per day. The worker was attending a wedding reception when an individual carrying a rod with a large bag walked toward him and wedged himself between the worker and his wife. To avoid being struck by the rod and bag, the worker stepped to the right. His foot hit a raised grate surrounding the base of a tree, causing him to fall and reinjure his shoulder. The worker's shoulder brace blocked his view of his foot and the raised grate on the sidewalk. The worker had a third shoulder surgery. The company refused to pay workers' compensation benefits for the third surgery and additional disability benefits. The Indiana Court of Appeals held that the worker was entitled to benefits.
The parties did not dispute that the worker's initial shoulder injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. The company argued that the causal connection between the original work accident and the second incident was broken by an intervening act of the individual forcing the worker to quickly move out of the way to avoid being struck by the individual and the rod and bag he was carrying. The court disagreed, finding that the reinjury was a proximate cause of the original injury.
The court found that the worker's ability to walk was impeded by the bulky shoulder brace he was required to wear. The brace contributed to his fall. The court also concluded that the worker was not negligent when he stepped to the side to remove himself from the individual's path.
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February 22, 2012
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