Case name: West Fraser, Inc. v. Caldwell, No. 1110513 (Ala. 07/20/12).
Ruling: The Alabama Supreme Court held that a worker was entitled to benefits for his back injury.
What it means: In Alabama, a four-day lapse in time between a work incident and documentation of an injury as being work-related is not too long in time for an inference that the injury was work-related.
A worker was assigned to replace the "knives" on a mulching machine. He had to lift two boxes, each weighing 50 to 100 pounds and move an 80-pound screen. While he was performing the task, he felt three "pinches" in his back. He informed his supervisor that he was suffering from back pain and had to leave work to see a doctor. Medical records from the day of the incident did not indicate a work-related injury even though the worker and his wife said they informed the medical staff that he injured his back at work. The worker's medical records from four days later referenced a work injury. The worker's coworker and two supervisors said they did not know that the worker injured his back at work. The worker sought benefits. The Alabama Supreme Court held that he was entitled to benefits.
The worker's doctor said that while he could have injured his back in several ways his injury was consistent with the lifting incident at work. The court said that at most four days elapsed between the worker's leaving work as a result of a back injury and the documentation of the injury as work-related. The court said that although there were some inconsistencies in the evidence it could reasonably infer that the injury was work-related.
A concurring judge emphasized that the trial court found the worker and his wife credible in light of the worker's 20-year record of work for the employer.
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September 13, 2012
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