Benefits denied for knee injury after step down from trash truck
Case name: May v. Town of Bridgewater, No. 1439-11-3 (Va. Ct. App. 04/10/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Virginia Court of Appeals held that a trash collector was not entitled to benefits because his knee injury did not arise out of his employment.
What it means: In Virginia, an inconclusive medical opinion can prevent a worker from showing that his injury arose out of his employment.
Summary: A trash collector for a town was riding on the back of a trash truck. When the truck came to a stop, he stepped backward off the truck, placing his left foot on the ground while his right foot initially remained on the step. He was also holding onto a grab bar while stepping down. The step was higher than a normal step. His left knee gave a loud pop, and he felt severe pain. He fell to the ground. He was diagnosed with a torn left knee meniscus. He sought workers' compensation benefits. The Virginia Court of Appeals held that he was not entitled to benefits because his injury did not arise out of his employment.
The court pointed out that the collector said that stepping down from the truck was not strenuous or difficult. The truck was not moving when he stepped down, and the ground was level.
The court found that the medical evidence was inconclusive because it did not establish more than a speculative link between the injury and the height of the step. The collector's doctor said that stepping down from a higher step would produce more pressure on the knee than an ordinary step. He opined that the combination of the height of the step and the manner in which the collector stepped down caused the injury. However, his opinion was based on the understanding that the collector placed "all the pressure" on the injured leg. The collector acknowledged that he used the grab bar while stepping down from the truck, which reduced the amount of pressure on his knee. The doctor also mentioned that the injury resulted after a twisting motion, which the collector denied.
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June 21, 2012
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