Case name: City of Austin v. Esparza, No. 03-10-00472-CV (Tex. Ct. App. 08/10/12).
Ruling: The Texas Court of Appeals held that a technician had a disability as a result of his work-related injury.
What it means: In Texas, evidence that a worker was unable to work for a period of time following his injury supports a finding of disability.
Summary: A forestry technician for a city claimed that he was cutting vegetation with a chainsaw when he felt pain up to his shoulders. He also said that the repetitive nature of his job duties, including using a chainsaw for more than 20 years, caused him to suffer bilateral arm and hand pain and numbness. He was cleared to return to work with restrictions. The city stopped offering him light-duty work and eventually terminated him. Later, he found other employment but was paid less than his preinjury wages. The technician sought workers' compensation benefits. The Texas Court of Appeals held that the technician was disabled as a result of the work injury.
The court explained that a "disability" is the inability to obtain or retain employment at wages equivalent to the preinjury wage. The city argued that there was a lack of evidence of the technician's wage-earning ability after his injury or that the inability he had was caused by his injury. The court said that the technician found other employment after his termination from the city but was unable to earn his preinjury wage. He provided medical records regarding his condition and the impact his injury had on his ability to work. The court found that the evidence supported a finding of disability because it showed that for at least a period of time his injury caused him to be unable to work.
A dissenting judge pointed out that the technician was able to perform light-duty work for one month after the injury. Also, the technician did not provide evidence that he sought employment during the period of disability.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 4, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications