Driver's neck scar merits 12 months of benefits for permanent disfigurement
Bulk Transportation v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, No. 1 CA-IC 12-0035 (Ariz. Ct. App. 05/07/13).
Ruling: The Arizona Court of Appeals held that a driver was entitled to 12 months of benefits for his permanent disfigurement.
What it means: In Arizona, a worker can be entitled to benefits for permanent disfigurement "about the head and face" for a scar on his neck.
A truck driver was transporting sulfuric acid for his employer. He noticed that acid was leaking from the hose of the truck and replaced the hose. The replacement hose became loose and sprayed acid on his face and neck. After treatment, he had a 4 to 5-inch scar on his neck that was visible at more than 20 feet and discoloration on the right side of his face. The driver sought benefits for his facial and neck scarring. The Arizona Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to 12 months of benefits.
The employer argued that a statute providing for compensation for permanent disfigurement "about the head or face" did not include the driver's neck scar. The statute did not expressly state that permanent disfigurement of the neck is compensable. After examining the phrase "about the head or face," the court found that the driver's neck disfigurement was compensable because the neck is "around," "near," and "in the vicinity" of a person's head or face.
The employer also argued that "about" is synonymous with "on," and a neck disfigurement is not "on" the head or face. The court found that nothing indicated that the legislature intended to restrict the meaning of "about" to "on."
The employer asserted that the administrative law judge's determination that the neck disfigurement was compensable was arbitrary and unreasonable because he considered a visual observation scale from a claims processing manual even though the Industrial Commission's claims division manager said that the manual was not relied on "that much anymore." The court said that nothing showed that the ALJ's determination was arbitrary or capricious. The statute provided discretion in the amount of the award, as long as it did not exceed 18 months.
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August 5, 2013
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