Inconclusive medical opinions fail to spark benefits after electrocution
Case name: Stokes v. Monogram Snacks Martinsville, LLC, No. 1599-11-3 (Va. Ct. App. 03/27/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Virginia Court of Appeals held that a winder's back injury was not compensable.
What it means: In Virginia, medical opinions that are inconclusive regarding the cause of a worker's injury do not support compensability for the injury.
Summary: A winder for a company was electrocuted when he plugged in a vending machine. He claimed that he was thrown back through the air and hit another machine. On the day of the accident, he did not report a back injury. Later, he complained of back pain. The Virginia Court of Appeals held that his back injury was not compensable because he did not prove that his back pain was related to the compensable incident.
The winder asserted that three physicians opined that his back injury was caused by the electrocution. However, one doctor did not explain the link between the winder's lower back pain and the electrocution. Also, the doctor incorrectly stated that the winder was completely disabled since the accident despite the fact that he returned to work on light duty. Two other doctors made contradicting statements about the cause of the back injury.
The court noted that another doctor said he was unable to attribute back pain to the work-related incident. The doctor viewed extensive medical records, including notes from other doctors. He also conducted a personal examination of the winder. The doctor noted an absence of back pain from earlier medical records.
The winder also argued that if he did not fly through the air and violently strike another machine his body "jerked" during the electrocution. One doctor's notes established that a jerking motion caused the back injury. However, the winder never testified that he made such a motion. He claimed that he was projected through the air and landed on his back.
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June 4, 2012
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