Hospital worker proves need for knee replacement related to work incident
Saline Memorial Hospital v. Smith, No. CA12-622 (Ark. Ct. App. 01/23/13).
Ruling: The Arkansas Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to additional and continued medical treatment, including a total knee replacement, and temporary total disability benefits.
What it means: In Arkansas, an aggravation of a preexisting, noncompensable condition by a compensable injury is compensable.
Summary: A worker for a hospital injured her left knee when she stepped into an open drain in the hospital's kitchen. The hospital accepted the injury as compensable and paid medical benefits and temporary total disability. The worker's treating physician recommended a total knee replacement. The hospital terminated benefits, claiming that the worker's need for a knee replacement was the result of her preexisting arthritic condition and not related to her work injury. The worker did not dispute that she had preexisting osteoarthritis in her knees. The Arkansas Court of Appeals held that she was entitled to benefits, including the knee replacement.
The hospital did not dispute that the worker's knee injury was compensable. The worker's treating physician noted that she had preexisting arthritis and a knee replacement was "likely" in her future, but the work injury "sped that up." The physician could not say that the worker's work injury caused her need for a knee replacement, but the fall at work exacerbated her condition. The court pointed out that the physician had not recommended a knee replacement before the work injury. The physician also said that there was no way to know whether a knee replacement would have been necessary or when.
The court noted that the worker was unable to return to work after her injury, indicating that the injury was not merely a "temporary aggravation" of a preexisting condition. The court concluded that the worker's work injury "aggravated, accelerated, and combined with" her preexisting condition, contributing to her need for a total knee replacement.
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May 13, 2013
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