Specialist's syndrome prevents finding that fall was unexplained
Case name: Blank v. U.S. Bank of Oregon, No. A149267 (Or. Ct. App. 09/26/12).
Ruling: The Oregon Court of Appeals held that a specialist for a bank was not entitled to benefits for injuries sustained in a fall.
What it means: In Oregon, a fall will be considered unexplained if the worker eliminates all idiopathic factors of causation.
Summary: A loan document specialist for a bank was diagnosed with Churg-Strauss syndrome, which caused inflammation of the blood vessels. The specialist was treated for various complaints that were likely related to the syndrome, including asthma, joint pain and stiffness, lethargy, decreased hearing, vertigo, and lower extremity numbness.
The specialist also suffered from obstructive sleep apnea. The specialist fell while she was alone in the bank's lunchroom during her morning break. She sustained injuries to her head, shoulder, wrist, and toe. She sought treatment at a hospital emergency room, where she reported that she tripped but could not recall whether she slipped, stumbled, became dizzy, or lost her balance. The bank's insurer denied her workers' compensation claim. The Oregon Court of Appeals held that she was not entitled to benefits.
The parties agreed that the specialist's injuries occurred in the course of her employment but disputed whether her fall arose out of her employment. A neurologist explained that the specialist's syndrome could cause neurological problems and inner ear problems that could create problems with balance. The neurologist said that the symptoms could "wax and wane," which could be why the specialist showed no signs of a flare-up at her independent medical evaluation but could not be ruled out as a possible cause of her fall.
The neurologist's assessments suggested potential idiopathic causes for the specialist's fall. The specialist said that her inner ear problems and numbness in her foot were always present. The court found that the specialist did not present any evidence that she fell as a result of work factors. Therefore, her fall was not compensable.
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December 6, 2012
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