Worker links motor neuron disease to work-related Lyme disease
Case name: Bailey v. Ben Ciccone, Inc., et al., No. 515309 (N.Y. App. Div. 03/14/13).
Ruling: The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division held that a worker was entitled to additional benefits because his motor neuron disease was consequential to his established claim for Lyme disease.
What it means: In New York, a worker bears the burden of presenting competent medical evidence establishing a causal relationship between his employment and disability.
Summary: A construction worker was bitten by a tick while working in the woods and was diagnosed with Lyme disease. When he began to experience upper body muscle weakness, he was forced to stop working, and the employer and its workers' compensation carrier began to pay him benefits.
His progressive muscle weakness worsened, rendering him permanently totally disabled. The carrier asserted that there was insufficient medical evidence showing that the worker's disability continued to be related to his Lyme disease. The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division held that the worker was entitled to additional benefits for his motor neuron disease.
The court pointed out that the worker's treating physician found that he suffered from significant muscle atrophy that rendered him totally disabled and was related to his Lyme disease. A neurologist also opined that the worker's progressive muscle weakness and consequent total disability were causally related to his Lyme disease. His treating psychiatrist indicated that his Lyme disease prompted an autoimmune reaction that produced symptoms resembling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The psychiatrist also explained that the worker's creatine phosphokinase levels improved when treated with antibiotics, establishing a connection between the infection and his muscle deterioration. The psychiatrist also opined that the worker suffered from anxiety and stress related to his diagnosis. The court noted that the carrier presented the opinions of several neurologists who could not state with certainty that the worker's Lyme disease was the cause of his motor neuron disease. However, the court found that substantial evidence supported a determination of a causal relationship.
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July 29, 2013
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