Mechanic fails to link work incident with hearing loss, tinnitus
Case name: Kersey v. Autry Morlan, Inc., No. SD31883 (Mo. Ct. App. 01/10/13).
Ruling: The Missouri Court of Appeals held that a mechanic was not entitled to future medical care and permanent partial disability benefits for his hearing loss and tinnitus.
What it means: In Missouri, traumatic hearing loss must meet a minimum threshold for the work accident to be considered a prevailing factor in causing a compensable injury or compensable permanent disability.
Summary: An auto mechanic was investigating the cause of alternator noise in a customer's engine. He used a stethoscope to amplify the noise, and something "popped" loudly inside the alternator. The mechanic's hearing was impaired by the loud noise, and he immediately reported the injury to his employer. An evaluation the same day found that he had high frequency hearing loss. Later, he was diagnosed with tinnitus. He was fitted with hearing aids for both ears. The mechanic sought workers' compensation benefits. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that he was not entitled to future medical benefits or permanent partial disability benefits.
The mechanic asserted that the work accident was the prevailing factor in causing his hearing loss and tinnitus. The court disagreed, explaining that the only doctor who evaluated the mechanic's hearing loss pursuant to the statutory requirements determined that his hearing loss did not meet the minimum threshold for compensability.
Regarding the mechanic's tinnitus, no medical expert provided the necessary causation testimony. One doctor opined that the cause of the tinnitus was unknown. The court said that the mechanic failed to meet his burden of showing that the work accident caused his hearing loss and tinnitus.
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April 8, 2013
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