Case name: Castillo v. Caprock Pipe & Supply, Inc., No. 31,499 (N.M. Ct. App. 05/30/12).
Ruling: The New Mexico Court of Appeals held that workers' compensation held the exclusive remedy for a laborer's death due to a disease caused by exposure to pigeons at work.
What it means: In New Mexico, a worker's injury arises out of his employment if the injury was caused by a peculiar or increased risk to which the worker, and not the general public, was subjected by his employment.
Summary: A warehouse laborer contracted a disease from exposure to roosting pigeons in the warehouse where he worked for an oilfield supply business. As a result of the disease, he died. His estate, wife, and children sued the business. The business sought to dismiss the case, arguing that it was barred by the exclusive remedy provision of workers' compensation. The New Mexico Court of Appeals held that the suit was barred.
The estate, wife, and children argued that the laborer's death did not take place in the course of employment. The court explained that the course of employment relates to the time, place, and circumstances under which the accident takes place. Here, the laborer contracted the disease while performing the duties of his employment, during work hours, at the warehouse. Therefore, his injury occurred in the course of employment.
The injury also arose out of his employment. He had a peculiar or increased risk of being exposed to pigeons as a result of his employment in a warehouse occupied by pigeons. The court said the continuous exposure to pigeons and pigeon feces at work was a significant cause, if not the cause, of his injury.
The court found that the laborer's disease did not qualify as an occupational disease. There was no evidence that pigeons or the laborer's disease were incidental to the character of the employer's business or businesses that employ people within warehouses. The court could not conclude that the laborer's disease was a natural incident of his employment.
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July 23, 2012
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