Safety and OSHA News

‘I got bit by a spider at work: Pay me comp’


Apparently, there’s no end to the variety of injuries employees can suffer on the job, for which they want to get workers’ comp benefits. Today’s injury: a spider bite.

Danny Wilson worked for Ace Hardware as a forklift battery exchanger. He exchanged, charged and maintained batteries for 90 forklifts in a warehouse.

One day, Wilson was cleaning under the battery rack station with a broom when he felt something sting his finger.

His finger turned red and he reported it to his supervisor.

Two days later, Wilson went to an emergency room due to the pain from his hand. He was diagnosed with a skin infection from a spider bite and was prescribed antibiotics and painkillers.

When he had to visit the hospital a second time, doctors said the infection in his hand had spread to the rest of his body. He was hospitalized for five days.

Wilson applied for workers’ comp wage loss benefits for a period of over two months and payment for medical expenses. His company denied benefits.

At a hearing before a deputy commissioner, Wilson testified spiders were a problem at his workplace. He was bitten a second time and was able to capture that spider. It was a brown recluse spider that can cause serious infections in some people.

The HR manager at the worksite said he wasn’t aware of any other employees in the maintenance department being bitten by spiders over a two-year period.

Two-prong test

The deputy commissioner ruled that Wilson failed to prove that he was exposed to a greater risk of spider bites at work than the risk encountered by the general public and denied him comp. On appeal, the full Workers’ Compensation Commission of Virginia agreed with the commissioner’s decision.

Wilson took his case to a state appeals court.

Under Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Act, an injured employee must prove that an injury arose:

  • in the course of employment, and
  • out of employment.

No one disputed that Wilson’s spider bite occurred in the course of his employment. However, the court challenged the notion that his injury arose out of his employment.

The court noted previous state court rulings that said, “the mere happening of an accident in the workplace, not caused by any work-related risk or significant work-related exertion, is not compensable,” and the worker “must show that a condition of the workplace either caused or contributed to” the injury.

The court agreed with the commissioner: Wilson’s work put him at no greater risk of receiving a spider bite than the general public.

Since he didn’t provide enough evidence to prove that the spider bite was due to a particular condition at work, Wilson was denied workers’ comp.

Did the court get it right? Have you ever had an employee suffer an injury brought on by contact with an arachnid, insect or other animal at work? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

You can view a PDF of the case here.

(Wilson v. Ace Hardware Corp., Court of Appeals of VA, No. 1719-10-2, 5/10/2011)

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  1. We have allowed workers comp claims on several spider bites that occurred at work. At this wastewater treatment facility there is a huge increase in risk over the outside environment. Spider and other insects proliferate due to an abundance of water and food for them. And we cannot apply chemicals in most areas due to the possibility of contaminating water that is discharged to the river.

  2. Absoutely, the courts got it right. When will the WC abuse end – while it is unfortunate his infection spread; this is the reason we all have personal insurance. I had an employee try something similar when a hornet flew into the warehouse and he got stung. This too was denied; we have to take a stand and draw a line somewhere. It would be different if he worked in a pet shop that sold spiders and was bitten when he was cleaning the cage. Unless, there were spiders everywhere like some horror movie I agree witht he courts.

    • Then let me ask you, Im a firefighter who had to extricate a victim out of her car that was on its roof in a creek off of a bridge in the woods and was bitten 5 times by a brown recluse. Should I not get workers comp? What if it had been a moccasin? We left our station to go swish and sway in shoulder high weeds and knee deep water to save a life. I’m not covered?

  3. ken baker says:

    Things must be different in VA…I can’t imagine winning that case in Ohio!

  4. Bill Ennis says:

    I actually encountered a few spiders when I was working Building above ground pools in the spring and summer seasons. In april of 2003 I was opening boxes and felt something bite me on my knee. I brushed it off without looking at it and chalked it up to just a large misquito bite. The next day it looked like i just scratched open the bump and I started to put neosporin on it. It then got bigger by the end of the day. So, I decided to put a cream on it that was supposed to draw out any toxins or nasty stuff inside. By the 3rd day, My entire leg was swollen and I could not walk. The hole in my knee was bigger then a golf ball. I then went to the emergency room. I was admitted and they took a culture and found out that the toxins were from a brown recluse spider. They did surgery and I ended up losing my knee cap and got it replaced with a plastic one. To this day, I now have pains in my knee, hard to walk sometimes, and wierdly the scar turns colors when its going to rain.

    I honestly wish they would have replaced my entire knee now because I have so many more problems with it all from a DAMN Spider.!

  5. I would be cautious in reading this to say that insect bites are not compensable altogether. If reasonable precautions are taken and the workplace is safe in the eyes of a reasonable person, I think this case is defensible. However, if the employee was exposed to an abnormal risk in the workplace, such as being asked to work in an area with a known (or even likely) infestation, I think the General Duty Clause would kick in and the outcome of the litigation would be quite different.

  6. PO'd Safety Guy says:

    I’m very surprised he didn’t get benefits since he was injured in the course of performing his job duties. Virginia has some tough laws, but I’m not sure the outcome was the correct one in this case.

    “The court noted previous state court rulings that said, “the mere happening of an accident in the workplace, not caused by any work-related risk or significant work-related exertion, is not compensable,”” What about someone who trips over something on the way to the restroom? Would this be compensable in VA? I can tell you that it would be in New York.

    ” and the worker “must show that a condition of the workplace either caused or contributed to” the injury.”” Spiders being present, seems to me, was a condition of his workplace.

    I don’t often side with the employee in these cases, but I am in this one.

  7. Another safety guy says:

    Shouldn’t a company be responsible for providing a safe work enviorment ? Sounds like this company does not have a bug exterminator coming by very often. The argument that he was at no greater risk than the general public sounds absurd to me. If you put the public at the same risk as your employees then your off the hook? I work here in Baton Rouge and we deal with spiders, both brown recluse and Black widows every year. We have a company come by and spray once a month to make sure that our employees are safe.

  8. I have always thought that a bite by an insect, spider, or snake is something that should not be compensible under WC. Surveyors, for example are always at risk and should prepare accordingly – if they get bit, it is a natural act, and not something the employer can control. Finally a State that gets it right. We have had several insect bites that have resulted in WC cases…I have always believed them to be bogus….

  9. We had a raccoon wander into our office and while one of the workers was removing it, he was bitten. The animal was released before anyone realized that someone was bitten, so the worker had to have rabies shots. Workers compensation covered the cost of the shots and the doctor’s visits.

  10. Usually I am suspicious of these type claims, but I disagree with this decision.

    – The employee claims the injury occurred at work while performing a work related activity and the company does not dispute the claim. This in itself is enough for me.

    – This employee had a higher risk than the general public unless people in Virginia frequently go to hardware stores and randomly clean under storage racks and other dirty crevices.

    It should all work out for the employee in the end. Since he isn’t covered by workers’ compensation, he is now free to sue his employer. I’m sure a jury will be sympathetic to the pain and suffering of a dedicated employee and award far more money that W/C would have provided anyway.

  11. It really depends on the working conditions; there was no evidence of any other employee being bitten indicating there was not an infestation, it seems it was a random bite from a spider hanging on to item. I don’t think it should have been covered and agree with the decision. However, my company is located right next to the woods and we have raccoons wandering around all the time especially by the garbage cans. I have checked with our WC carrier; if anyone is bitten it would be covered by WC as we have not done anything to control them. Being next to the woods there really is nothing we can do. We also have deer wandering around in the parking lot occassionally.

  12. We had a produce employee get bit by a spider that was in a box of produce. It was covered under WC as the spider had come into the workplace in the box of produce.

  13. I think they got it wrong this time. This man was doing his job and was injured. We had a similar instance with a bat bite and covered the employee; it was the right thing to do.

  14. I was bitten by a spider at home in my outbuilding while retrieving a shovel, in a very neat and organized area. People are bitten at home everyday. I agree with the Decision in this case, although it is definately one that could be argued either way. I agree that if the business is doing everything it can to control habitats that prevent infestations, most insect bites, stinging injuries, etc are naturally occurring – therefore in absence of employer negligence should be non-compensible. Jan nailed it in my book – the employer can only do so much to control nature. Train people to the hazards, provide proper controls to prevent critters, etc. We had a guy that left his gloves and boots outside near his work area in lieu of using a company provided locker – and got bit by an insect. He was previously trained to understand the habitat, and was instructed to shake out boots and gloves prior to putting them on – even if stored in a locker. Guess what? Workers comp covered the injury. I totally disagreed with the case then, and I disagree now.

  15. bluefletch says:

    The only people that seem to make these claims to W/C are the ones that do not have basic health insurance. These are the people that want the government to pay thier way instead of taking resposibility for them self.

    I bet this guy checks under shelves and racks now before he sticks his hand under there!

    Common sence should tell you look where your going or reaching in this case!

    The court decision is correct!

  16. Melanie says:

    I’m with Ken on this one. Been there – lost that. Zero infestation problems, employee bitten by spider and WC covered the costs. Florida is pretty much pro-employee all the way down the line. The only claim I’ve had denied by WC in Florida was an employee that filed claiming the cold he caught was work related.

  17. I agree with the coursts desion on this matter. Workers comp is getting out of hand. I firmly believe that if an employee is legimately injured on the job then they should be compinsated for it. Unfurtunatlt there is a lot of fraudulant claims out there that should not get compensated and they do, something is wrong with the system. The line has to be drawn somewhere.

  18. We have a had 3 employees biten by brown recluse spiders at the work place, the first was a mechanic who DID NOT report it until days later when he had a hole in his leg bigger than a golfball, he did get WC benifits and was out for a coulple of weeks. the other two cases that followed were reported immediately and they were sent to the clinic right away where they received antibiotics and did not miss any days away from work.

  19. safety geek says:

    Been doing safety for 30 years and this ruling is a total contradiction to most all workplace injury work comp rulings. The employer is responsible for the safety of the employees while at work (course of employment). Good, bad or indifferent, I have seen work comp claims go through for any type of injury from the time that the employee gets out of their car in the parking area until the time they leave the property.

    Whether it was an act of nature, the employer had control of the hazard or the hazard put him at no greater risk of receiving a spider bite than the general public has no bearing on the issue. We all have ladders at home and have a risk of falling off of them at home. But if an employee falls off a ladder at work, regardless of the reason for the fall, work comp kicks in even though there was no greater risk at work than the general public.

  20. Safety Boy (A Real Superhero) says:

    A security guard was stung/bitten while completing his rounds. He reporting it over the radio when it happened. A week later he was hospitalized with a staph infection. He required surgury and skin grafts. It was one of our longest and most costly Lost Time injuries. It was all covered by WC. Why? We’re in Ohio.

  21. Safety Geek, I certainly agree with what you wrote as reality and is exactly as you stated, however, that does not make it right, and for that reason, I applaud the decision by the State of Virginia.

    I believe the WC system as it currently stands is open for abuse, and the boards that make the decisions are part and parcel to the problem. Decisions like this, especially in the state of Virginia, set precedance for future cases.

    The ladder argument in my mind is apples to oranges. Ladders, and their usage is a defined set of systems, where root cause can be determined very simply – from hiring the wrong employees to management and supervisory negligence. I defy anyone to make the claim that they have eradicated critters from their work areas (or homes for that matter) to the degree that someone is guarenteed not to be bitten or stung. IF THE EMPLOYER IS DOING EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO PROVIDE A SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT FOR THE INCIDENT – WHY SHOULD HE BE PUNISHED?

  22. Alecfinn says:

    A completely ridiculous ruling while cleaning company equipment the employee got bit, by a spider on company property GGGGGzzzzzzzzz The ruling is so wrong……….

  23. I was stunned to read the ruling. Then I thought that maybe it was from Alabama or Mississippi. I did not think Virginia was that bastardly a state. When I worked in the HO of what was a major insurance company, I took over the role of corp safety person since no one else was doing it (very strange, eh?). While reviewing our wc losses, i found 2 or 3 claims regarding brown recluse spiders from our mid-west offices. Those are nasty, nasty bites.

    Also, while it has been more than 20 years since i looked up their normal home range of the spiders, i do not think VA would be considered their normal habitat. Often, they get transported in shipments or vehicles — that is when you get bites in other locations. To me, this would suggest that it might meet their work-relatedness criteria.

    I would be ashamed if I lived in VA. And I would be ashamed if my brain worked the same way as “Jan’s!” 🙂

  24. In California this would most likely have been covered. i’ve seen a lot of claims come through for things most people would not file for and they get paid by w/c. This arouse out of employement and in the course of employment and should have been covered.

  25. I don’t believe the general public would be cleaning under dirty battery rack stations. It happened at work while performing his regular duties, it should be covered. This is not like he got hurt doing something he shouldn’t have been. Had he been sneaking a smoke or phone call out by a dumpster and got bit, that would be a different thing. He has valid documentation of medical circumstances directly affected by the incident. He should receive workers comp and his bills should be paid.

  26. This is a terrible ruling. He was working in their facility. They should have controlled the spiders or required gloves. I am surprised that Ace Hardware would treat an employee so poorly and that Virginia would allow this. He should be paid.

  27. Come on John – it was an insect bite that could have happened anywhere. If you were grocery shopping and got stung would you scream WC, or maybe at a swimming pool.its these people that is costing the WC system millions of dollars. Where will this end; WC is not a free ride as many think. We are not only fighting claims now we are taking them to trial. The company has to take a stand somewhere.

  28. John, you need to know what you’re talking about before you post ignorant comments. While the TTD rate isn’t particularly high in comparison to other states, Mississippi has some of the most liberal rulings regarding compensability you will find.

    In fact, before I read your snide comment I was about to post that this would have CERTAINLY been compensable in Mississippi. He was in the course and scope of his employment and the bite arose out of his employment. I really don’t see the correlation the state of Virginia made between “arising out of his employment” and “no greater risk than the general public.” If you fall down and injure your back working in an office it’s compensable, yet you have no greater risk of falling than that of someone walking through his living room.

  29. Getreal says:

    The decision stinks. The guy was bitten while performing his job duties. That should be the end of the argument. Yes, there is a ton of abuse in the WC system, to varying degrees in various states. But to me this spider case is pretty cut and dry.

    Where the real abuse comes in is with MSDs. The worker who hurts his back or shoulder or whatever at home and comes to work and claims he hurt it on the job. So hard to prove otherwise and workers know it. These injuries are usually real and often take forever to heal. And depending on the severity, drive up comp costs. States need to find a way to abolish such abuse, but it’s not likely to happen. Too often the only proof needed is the employee’s word.

  30. Look, I respect all of the opinions on this topic, but think the State of Virginia got this one right. An insect bite can happen anywhere, no matter how hard we try to ensure they do not interfere with our lives. I believe the reality is, like Safety Geek says, that in most states, it is almost automatic that an insect bite is considered a compensible injury.

    My opinion is that the employer can manage this to a certain degree, but unlike fall protection, lockout tagout, and other programs there is a level of control that is impossible to meet. If the employer maintains habitats on his property and puts forth no effort whatsoever, and there are insect, snake, or animal habitats within the property – by all means make it compensable. Our company culture is such that managers are expected and audited to ensure these habitats are addressed, employees are trained both to understand the effects of insect bites, what to look for, and how to prepare, storage areas for clothing and personal affects are provided. I believe the Virginia Court considered this as shown in the article “Since he didn’t provide enough evidence to prove that the spider bite was due to a particular condition at work, Wilson was denied workers’ comp”. I believe they excercised common sense by reviewing how well the employer addressed this potential hazard – I just wish all WC boards would look at their example. – too many times, WC boards simply agree with the employee, without reviewing the efforts of the employer to create a safe working environment, and prevent injury.

    What we do is way beyond what one would typically see in the workplace – because we know it is a real hazard. This means there is some level of care and precaution everyone of us must take – whether we go into our basement at home, or are sweeping up a dark corner in a warehouse – knowing that all insects can never be removed in our indoor / outdoor setting. This training is required once per year. Even with all of…

  31. David Wilson says:

    There seem to be some things missing from this case. The employee was bitten a second time, but no other employees had been bitten. Do any ofthe other employees do this particular job. If not, the fact that no other employees were bitten is irrelevant. Did the employer perform proper hazard identification/risk assessment/controls as required by regulation? Was PPE, such as proper gloves, available to the employee? Was the employee instructed in proper use of PPE and risks associated with not using PPE? Do you commenters know the OSHA regulations?

    It appears that the employee’s case was not very well made. Incompetent attorney? Yes, I may be bitten by a spider at home. I may also fall off a ladder, cut my finger off with a Skil saw, or drop the car off the jack onto my foot, but if these things happen at work, even if they are my own fault, they are generally compensable.

    To those who say this is not compensable, be careful. The employee may have a better attorney during the civil case and cost the company much more than losing the WC case would.

  32. Good Retort, although I still believe most WC systems cut too wide a swath when it comes to things the employer can control and there is not enough effort given by the WC Board(s) to determine whether an employer does everything it can do to prevent injuries. In this case, I believe the State of Virginia considered the employers programs and management of this potential hazard, which leveled the playing field…

    We would not be debating this issue if the employee cut his fingers off with a saw or fell off of a ladder – it would simply have been a WC case no one would be debating, and I (for one) would be on the other side of this debate. Saws / ladders can be controlled, through guarding / training / monitoring / inspection, etc On the other hand, no matter how hard an employer inspects/ guards / monitors / trains, etc., they are not going to have an equal level of control in an indoor / outdoor / warehouse work setting with insects. Apples to oranges.

    Incompetent attorney? I don’t see any mention of Mr Wilson having an attorney in the article.

    Civil case? – level of proof by ee just became higher because the judge/jury must consider and give weight to WC Boards decision…not saying it is not winnable by the employee, just that going into the civil suit, there is already a case in place that says the company was not liable for the injury.

  33. Notenoughregs says:

    I understand the ruling. I don’t necessarily agree with it. Brown Recluse spiders prefer certain types of environments. If you’re company has a particular locations that make it very hospitalable to spiders they should exterminate especially when you have a spider as venomous as the Brown Recluse. These spiders are dangerous and as a moral imperative you shouldn’t want any of your workers permanently injured do to a bite from one of these spiders regardless of whether you are within your rights. It is well known that these spiders are aggressive, they leap and will defend themselves from perceived attack. If you have areas that could be a good home to spiders and/or snakes, it would be smart and good business practice to just have it exterminated and checked periodically. Why risk it. You can’t fix his leg or hand if he looses it. You also loose a worker. Then you deny him coverage and call it abuse of WC because he/she filed. Other works see this and make a determination about you and your company and what you think of them as employees. This effects morale. They will also make a decision on how far they’ll go for the company. Overall this may cost the company a lot more than paying WC. For those he applaud the courts and think it was abuse because he even filed. I bet you wouldn’t feel the same way if you stuck your hand in a drawer at work and got bitten and lost your finger or hand. Yea, they can be anywhere, but some environments make better habitats. So, check it instead falling back on the company line. That is if you care anything at all about your people. Now if they are just numbers then oh well and you should be in another line of work. Sometimes having right on your side isn’t the right thing to do.

  34. Notenoughregs, I don’t understand the logic in the last post. I guess the easiest way to explain my point is: Let’s say I am over at your house for a cookout and a beer. We are standing in your immaculate garage, nothing out of place, well organized, and clean. You had the exterminators out two weeks ago, because your housepartner saw a little brown spider. You had previously told me about the spider issue. I get bitten on the finger by a spider, while getting the bottle opener off of the refreigerator, we trap him in a bottle. No doubt I was at your house, no doubt I was bitten by the spider. Well, the finger gets red, swollen, and I get a staff infection, and five days in the hospital. SHOULD I SUE YOUR HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE? Some would, I wouldn’t because I know that you did all that you could to prevent habitats, and I knew that spiders can be everywhere. Now, I decide to sue you, I lose. Does that mean you don’t care? No – you did not invite me over to get bitten by a spider, you even let me know they were there, had the exterminators in, and I knew the hazards….Does that mean that you are holding the company line? No – I don’t think so, just doing the right thing. Now – I borrow a ladder from another neighbor, the ladder has a cracked leg the owner knows about, doesn’t tell me about it the leg breaks, then my leg breaks. Should I sue – your damn right I should – no question about it. And yes – in this case you did not care, and you would hold the company line hoping I would lose….

  35. safety geek says:

    but again… the rules, requirements, and liabilties are VERY different for the workplace versus a residence.
    This is not even about our opinons on what is right or wrong but operating within the acceptable rules and requirements for safety as well as the workers comp law

  36. Agreed. I would assume the Deputy Commissioner and the WC Board would work within their rules.

  37. I do not agree with the ruling on this case. Here is one thing to point out that most of you missed – “The HR manager at the worksite said he wasn’t aware of any other employees in the maintenance department being bitten by spiders over a two-year period.”

    So before that two year period did they have employees get bit by a spider? If so, what did they implement to prevent these things from happening? If they implemented something was it maintained or because they had not seen any spider bites for 1 or 2 years they stopped the action plan. Also, were other employees in different departments bit by spiders?

  38. There is a PDF available which transcribes a portion of testimony – it is anchored to State Law.

  39. Maybe the HR manager has only been there two years which is why he made the statement that there have not been any bites in two years. It doesn’t sound like spider bites were a problem before. It seems to be a random bite.

  40. In that transcript the Commission based it decision on VA Law, which clearly states the following in regard to the case

    “But it excludes an injury which cannot fairly be traced to the employment as a contributing proximate cause and which comes from a hazard to which the workman would have been equally exposed apart from the employment. The causative danger must be peculiar to the work and not common to the neighborhood.”

    My opinion is that the commission followed the law in their decision.

  41. The employer has the right to make his work environment a safe one by addressing the risks/hazards that are associated with his undertaking, and which are foreseeable ,and to do so within a reasonable practicality. This is not a situation in the work environment for example –conditions that perpetuate/ encourage mosquito breathing from which work related illnesses/injuries may result. It’s an isolated case- one which the employer has little or no control over. Why should he be penalized? Clearly the decision is a good and fair one.

  42. Richie, it’s not a matter of the employer being penalized? Worker’s Comp is a no fault system. Whether the employer did something wrong or not, whether the employee did something wrong or not, doesn’t factor into the equation. The employee was doing his regular job, he got bit by a spider at work, it is a compensable injury in most states. Based upon DMac’s post, it’s obvious that Virginia has a caveat not found in most state’s WC laws.

    While I think employers get the shaft in far too many WC cases, this part of the letter of Virginia’s law sure seems to defeat the purpose of a no fault system.

  43. Greg, I clearly understand your take, however, isn’t it a fact that insurance premiums come about due to certain determining factors?
    For instance, wouldn’t an insurance carrier/provider consider/review let say………. an employer’s claims history among other things in determining his /her eventual premium… so in fact, directly/indirectly the employer is penalized somewhat?

  44. Notenoughregs says:

    With individuals, chances are no matter what you do some will sue your homeowners insurance anyway. With respect to the company and it’s policies toward worker’s compensation it’s not the same as an individual and their personal property. That you should weigh the lose of your worker and permanent damage that could lead to permanent long-term disability, which could cost your company thousands of dollars in legal and medical fees against the cost of exterminating, checking etc; not to mention the effect this situation will have on your other employees whom you may ask to do this job at some time. So, you err on the side of caution set up safety checks just like you do for other hazardous situations. Do whatever you need to do to ensure as much as possible your employees safety. Then if you still want to fight the WC claim you have a better chance of winning. In this case they have State of Virginia on their side with a regulation that almost ensures the employee will lose his case however, in most States the company would have lost. The operative words here, “is at work.” Hence the term, Worker’s Compensation for workers who are at work. If you sustain a similar injury at home or outside of work, the injury automatically fails to qualify for WC because it did not happen at work or while working. No claim could be filed. I do not understand why this is so difficult to understand. Virgina’s law is the problem here. It will cause a lot of lawsuits for negligence because employees will have no other option. You know, under GDC.

    As far as whether it was 2 yrs or 10 yrs. Simply because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean you should not try to mitigate the chances that it will. That sounds like the whole locking the barn after….thing at work. Companies do this all the time. They have all types of safety precautions and procedures to prevent things from happening eventhough they may not have had an incident in decades or years. So how is this any…

  45. Notennoughregs: The result is based in the law. The WC board in my eyes made the correct ruling. We should just agree to disagree on this topic. I guess it just depends on which side of the fence your standing on, but for me, I agree with the ruling and do not see how they could legally rule otherwise…

  46. BeeSmith says:

    This entire blog is unbelievable, i cant believe that 1/2 of you think the denial of this claim is ok. What if it was you and you are the employee and not the employer! Many people do not have personal insurance, its possible this company does not even offer it. Im just glad i dont do HR in VA it would be quite difficult to bite my tongue in this situation. Good Luck to whom ever had this happen to them i support you.

  47. BeeSmith – do you not think that if his company failed to meet their burden of proof in providing a safe workplace, they would have succeeded at winning this case? In my opinion – they would not have won the case if they were maintaining a workplace of infestation, with no effort towards prevention.

    I feel sorry for the employee, however, the workers comp system should not be used as a catch all. As absurd as it sounds – the employer normally gets the short end of the stick, i.e., employee injured lifting weights, employee injured climbing steps at an offsite hotel, employee breaks ankle playing softball at company sponsored picnic, employee files for comp because customers perfume is to fraguent – jeez, give me a break, shrink the scope of WC for legitimately controllable obligations of the employer.

  48. Since when is the burden of proof for job safety (the use of gloves for the task, as an example) the responsibility of an employee, if the company has no guidelines? He was doing the job his employer asked him to do, in the facility his employer owns!! It was an unfortunate encounter with a brown recluse spider, a fairly poisonous species, but the employee suffered an injury during his job duties, regardless of what precipitated the injury (what’s the difference between being bitten by a spider or injuring a leg due to uneven tile at work?)

    Yes, this is a WC issue. If I was an employee, I would get a lawyer and go after the company for failing to provide safety requirements for this type of work.

  49. The difference is that uneven tile has a much higher level of control for an employer – no brainer, if an employee tripped over a tile, this conversation would not be happening – he would have recieved WC. However, in some work environments, there is only so much control an employer has in the control insects and spiders. This guy was in the hardware business, with a large warehouse – it is almost fundementally impossible to eliminate all insects no matter how well managed your program is…The WC board followed the law…Great decision….

    Who / where does it say this employer does not have guidelines? I am a Safety Manager in an indoor / outdoor manufacturing environment. We spray for insects once per quarter. We train our people about the habitats of insects, snakes, etc. We keep a clean house. We make sure employees have lockers in which to keep their PPE, etc.

    If you asked me right now whether there is a spider or bee in the plant, I would have to say “probably”. because insects and spiders go where they want. There is a huge difference between an uneven tile and a live spider!

  50. I’m a facility manager for an outdoor oriented orginization and was bit by a Black Widow while moving firewood. I am on the process of getting workmens comp coverage. I only missed one day and had an ER visit. Because I am the manager of the grounds department one of my roles is is to physically assist them with their tasks which happened to be stacking firewood. It was later discovered that we had a Black Widow infestation in this area which we had exterminated ASAP. I think this is something that should be covered by WC.

  51. I was bitten at work and denied WC. 3 days hospitalization I use 2 weeks of my sick leave and 2half days for follow up drs ofc visits. Our HR smiled when explaining my denial.

  52. OK, no work comp for this fellow, forcing him to sue for damages incurred while on the employers’ property due to a failure to maintain the property. Seems like the employer would be ahead to cover this under WC.

  53. Was this still counted as an OSHA recordable?

  54. I am sorry but we are not talking about any spider. We are talking about a brown recluse. If management knows these spiders exist in the workplace they should have called an externinator. I would never work in a place with these spiders. I have seen how bad of an injury they can cause. We are not talking about a daddy long legs.

    The guy was injured while on the job. So work comp needs to cover this. End of story. It does not matter if the work enviroment was safe or not. W/C is paid in cases where the employee is at fault for his own injury. I had a guy drop something on his own head. His fault W/C pays as it was at work during work hours.

  55. Ace Hardware is wrong. This man was bitten in their facility in the course of his employment while performing his work duties. He immediately reported it. His supervisor should have asked more questions to determine whether or not the spider was poisonous, and if they believed it to be so, then he should have advised the man to go the doctor and get it taken care of on the company’s dime.

    There is a difference between doing what is required and doing what is the right. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it. Was saving a little money worth putting this man through so much trouble and expense? Where is the humanity? Have they no heart? Apparently not, but Ace should also consider that this type of behavior does not build a strong and loyal workforce or goodwill in the community at large.

    It is apparent that Ace does not value or care about their employees. I used to shop at Ace Hardware regularly, but after hearing this story- I shall never spend another red cent at their stores again!

  56. It’s about time they got one of these right. The only time a worker should be compensated for a spider bite is if the company is in the business of milking spiders for venom or caring for arachnids in some kind of way such as in a zoo when they got bit, AND the employee was following all procedures.

    And for sure no bites, stings and such should be counted against a company on their OSHA logs.

    No amount of bug spraying or professional exterminating will keep every insect or rodent out. Common sense has to enter the equiation somewhere, and it seems in this case, it did.

  57. Laws differ from state to state however, I recently had an employee bitten by a spider and we covered the injury as work related because he was performing his cleaning duties at our facility when he moved a table and disturbed a cluster of spiders. Brown Recluse spiders are known to nest in recessed areas, storerooms and sheds, under furniture and machinery, and also inside seldom used shoes, boots, and clothing, hence the name “recluse”.
    The venom from these arachnids is highly necrotic to tissues and can cause serious infection and loss of tissue. All spider bites are not caused by Brown Recluse, but do not ignore an employee’s report of a bite because if it was a Brown Recluse, the longer treatment is delayed, the worse the injury will be, and the more expensive.

  58. Good call Jill! It is ironic how much time and money companies spend fighting claims that really should be paid. Someone needs to look at how much $ ACE spent on court costs,lawyers, etc. and compare that to the cost of a trip to the ER and done. It is true that the biggest cost driver for a workers comp claim is a disgruntled employee….where is the logic?

  59. For Jason

    “I would never work in a place with these spiders.”

    You work around brown recluse spiders all the time if you work anywhere from Texas to Georgia, S. Carolina almost up to the great lakes. It is a very common spider that most people are in very close proximity many times at their house, at work, at recreation. It is not an aggressive arachnid, and it is not dangerous to the majority of the popluation, but a small percentage of the population will have a bad reaction to the bite. Proper first aid is all the vast majority of people need for the BR spider bite. Have been bitten myself. It did require medical attention eventually, but it wasn’t my employers responsibility.
    Here in Louisiana Brown Recluse spiders can be found by anyone who knows where to look at just about any jobsite, playground, or home garage. The same with Bees, wasps, snakes, etc.

  60. There is more merit to the spider bite claim than one paid by our carrier for VD! Our employee claimed a lift injury, possibly a hernia and a claim was opened. At his first medical exam, he was diagnosed with a venereal disease. His claim was paid because lifting could potentially aggravate his existing (VD) condition. We disputed and lost. We changed carriers – who wants to be insured by a Corp of Idiots?

  61. David collins says:

    Bad ruling, regardless of whether or not his job involves handling spiders or milking them, he was performing his job and was exposed to the hazard as a result. The alternative would be for him to ask for all lifts to be pest proofed before he could begin work, not practical. The company expected him to do the job without being able to predict this risk. Should benefits be paid only when workers are injured from recognized risks? A lawsuit becomes his only remedy. That’s not a good message for the employer or the state to send.

  62. Wow. I couldn’t read all the comments but I can’t beleive someone would think you can clean and remove pests 100%, or that you can look before you stick your hand anywhere. Some places that just isn’t possible. I don’t recall anyone metioning that maybe the employee should have been required to wear PPE (gloves) for those “reaching into dark places” assignments. It would have been the responsible thing for the employer to do and would have limited their liability i a littel more, especially if the worker didn’t wera them and it wasa documented that he was supposed to. No brainer…give him WC and learn from it!

  63. Great Ruling. Followed the law. Read the transcript. Finally a voice of common sense from a WC judge. “the mere happening of an accident in the workplace, not caused by any work-related risk or significant work-related exertion, is not compensable,” and the worker “must show that a condition of the workplace either caused or contributed to” the injury. Great statement. End of story.

  64. For Eric

    “is not dangerous to the majority of the popluation”

    It is on the list of the most dangerous spiders on earth. Some how it ranks below the Black Widow for which there is an Anti-Vemon. I Live in South Florida and I am very aware of the where abouts of the BR. I agree they had in many places you don’t see just like roaches. If a company has an infestation they can’t control I am not working there. Like roaches if you see them there is a problem.

    I have seen a child with a golfball size hole in her arm from a BR bite. I have seen a 10 inch whole in a mans leg from a BR bite. You are the only person I have seen that has gotten bite and hadn’t suffered any serious ill effects. So congrats!

    I will leave my employement if they have an infestation and can’t get it under control. I know I can’t get away from all the pests but they need to get them under control. As for BEES, WASPS and SNAKES I don’t really care. If your allergic to bees and don’t carry an epipen to work your a moron. Besides I have never seen a snake, wasp, or bee create the damage the BR does.

    A deer can run out in front of your work truck while you are on the job. Same chance of it happening while off the clock and you get injured. You probably would pay for those injuries yourself too even though your personal insurance may not pick it up because you were on the job.

  65. Jason, you are not alone in your misusntersnating of the BR spider. But it is misunterstanding never the less. This is a direct quote from Mike Potter, Extension Entomologist University of Kentucky College of Agriculture at “The majority of brown recluse spider bites remain localized, healing within 3 weeks without serious complication or medical intervention.” I recommend everyone read the article.
    While I may be the only one you have heard of that has been bitten without major complications, I am among the vast majority of BR spider bite victims. The reality is that the majority of BR sider bite victims never realize they were bitten by a BR and it goes unreported. My finger did need treatment about 3 weeks later, but very minor treatment.
    Many other sores are misdiagnoised as a BR bite. If you don’t have the spider, there is no way to tell what the bite came from, or even if it was a bite. The BR bite is mostly painless, most victims do not realize they have been bitten until several hours afterward.

    I do agree with you, if there is an infestation, something needs to be done. But to say you would not work in any area where they have BR spiders would eliminate the majority of the USA. My guess is you do work around them and never see them.

  66. I believe that Eric makes an important point and that is, no matter how thorough of a “critter” program an employer has, insects/spiders/mosquitoes/bees/ants will always be around. There is a theory, which I tend to feel is fairly accurate, that no matter where a person is, they are never more than 20 feet from a spider. Think about that a little bit. If you are in the office – they are there, If you are in your house they are there. Why would a warehouse or production building be any different. As much as you try, you cannot eliminate them in your own home, which accurately reflects why Virginia got it right….

  67. Seems to me, it would only be work-related if the conditions on the job created an abnormally large spider population or required the employee to perform a function that caused a unique exposure. In many cases, an individual has a greater chance of getting bitten in their home or cleaning out their garage. Exposures typical to off the job activities should not be covered. For example, catching a cold because you got wet walking in the rain from your car into your place of employment is not job related.

  68. It seems like most early comments are forgetting one important point, the report the supervisor. If there had been proper follow up, how would this case turned out differently? Medical treatment should have been provided at the time of the bite and not 2 days later.

    The early comment, “thats what personal insurance is for”, is absolutely absurd. That person has obviously never been hospitalized. AFTER the gentleman meet his deductible, His bill was probably over 2 grand.

    Also, if there was a Brown Recluse in a public school, you can bet that Health and Human service would be getting involved. What most of you don’t realize that if you adminster an epi-pen to your employee for bee sting, they will still need a trip to the emergency room for followup care so do count them out!

  69. So many people here seem to believe that Workers Comp should be some sort of socialized medicine. It was never intended to be, and should never be. It is to compensate workers who were injured in direct correlation with their job duties. If the employee acts irresponsibly, such as being intoxicated while at work, they forfeit WC. I’m not suggesting the bite victim in this case was intoxicated or negligent, but trying to address so many of the other posters’ misconceptions about WC, who seem to believe WC is a charitable organization.

    The 2nd part of the Genreal Duty Clause, which most folks forget about is this “b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.”

    When was the last time you heard of an employee being cited and fined by OSHA for violating OSHA law? Why not? Why does only the employer get cited and fined?

    It does not matter how much their personal insurance deductible is. If you have a heart attack at work, it’s not a WC issue, neither should be spider bites, regardless of the employee’s ability to pay for their own medical care or insurance status.

    If an employee is allergic to stings or bites, that is personal condition of the employee, not the responsibility of the employer, no more than an employer who employs someone with diabtetes is responsible if the person eats too much sugar on the job.

    The WC courts have been FAR too liberal for far too long. Nice to see some common sense rational win out every now and then. Good for you VA!

  70. I believe Tammy is totally missing the point on this one. Medical cost is not at issue. At issue is where to draw the line of responsibility when it comes to this injury. Workplace violence is a good example to compare to the insect issue, as an employer can never ever fully control that one either. An employee brings a gun to work and kills three people. It just happened out in Cali. The employer has previously spoke to all employees about workplace violence and stopped short of putting in x ray technology and hiring a security guard to hand check each employee as the enter the plant. The company has a weapons policy, and has enforced it a couple of times in its history. WHERE DO YOU DRAW THE LINE???, The employer has, in my mind, met General Duty, it could happen anywhere, any day – THIS IS A FACT. It is unfortunate and sad, but is that to considered WC as well? If so, I totally agree with Eric, the system is broken. In my mind, the state of Virginia got this one absolutely correct.

  71. I never suggested that the company pay WC to their employee. I said that if they had reason to believe that it may be a poisonous spider, then they SHOULD have volunteered to pay for him to seek medical attention in the first place.

    More than likely this man makes minimum wage and is a part timer (a common strategy that companies deploy to avoid paying benefits) and has no health insurance. When did charity or goodwill become out of favor? Ever hear the saying that charity begins at home? The company reported total revenues of $1.021 billion for the last quarter ended July 2, 2011. Upper management salaries are more than 20 times that of their lowest paid employees.

    Employees are the backbone of any business, and they should be treated like human beings who are valued. Maybe instead of investing so much of their time and huge earnings in denying claims, companies should work smarter and avoid claims in the first place by adopting a policy that fosters a more caring, giving and positive environment. They may discover a plethora of benefits are to be had by this approach. If they are not concerned about the welfare of their employees, then they should stop USING people to do their work–hire a robot instead.

    I am the HR Director for a small company with a team of technicians who are regularly involved in work that can be hazardous. Three years ago I implemented a policy which encourages employees to come to me, or someone in upper management, and report any injury or illness that they feel may have been occurred while at work or because of work. If it is determined that they need to seek medical attention, the company offers to pay for their copay. (We require all employees to sign up for medical insurance (subsidized by the company) if they cannot prove they have…

  72. Is there something I have missed here?
    The man was at work, got bit by a spider while performing his duties on company time, on company property. As a side note there is no such thing as a pest free environment the best that can be expected is a control over pests and to issue PPE. There is no way to tell who may have a reaction to any exposure or to what situation will have a negative reaction as all humans are different that is true for insect/animal bites and chemical or other exposures
    There is no mention of PPE or what the company mandates the employee use, if anything, when performing functions. Nor is there a mention of any pest control program or a safety program.
    The court noted previous state court rulings that said, “the mere happening of an accident in the workplace, not caused by any work-related risk or significant work-related exertion, is not compensable,” and the worker “must show that a condition of the workplace either caused or contributed to” the injury.
    It seems to me that this employee would not of his own accord be cleaning under battery racks in the employer’s property and it also seems to me that the cleaning was a direct cause to the bite. Also there seems to be that it was the company’s failure to appropriately monitor its environment regarding pest control and PPE/Safety Programs that allowed and encouraged a dangerous situation to develop. There is also a question in my mind as to what safety program the company had you are handling batteries that power forklifts and you have no PPE at all and the same condition for cleaning around the racks of batteries.
    Then there is “The HR director did not know of any spider bites” –could that be because the staff was unaware or was afraid to report these conditions? The employee seemed to cover what had happened to him a report to his supervisor the day of the incident. He then went for medical care when he there was a problem and follow-up care as the problem persisted.
    Following the…

  73. “Is there something I have missed here?
    The man was at work, got bit by a spider while performing his duties on company time, on company property.”

    No, you have not missed anything. Those items added up do not automatically equal workers comp.

    • I got bitten by a spider but I did not pay too much attention to it, after 3 days my whole hand swelled up and turned blue, I claimed it under WC but they denied it so now I am very confused about this whole issue.

      • Cryptorhynchus says:

        I think every accident regarding pest’s bite shall directly be reported and documented also by pest management team of the company or any department that may concern.

  74. Somehow I missed this story back in May. I can’t add anything that has not already been said here, but I did want to note something. The spider pictured in the “replay” of this story in December is not a brown recluse spider. I believe it is a wolf spider. They are often mstaken for the brown recluse. A brown recluse has 3 pairs of eyes, one pair centered, and a pair on each side of the “head.” They are at the “base” of the violin, which is darker than the body, not lighter, as pictured. The “neck” of the violin lies toward the rear. It, too, is darker than the area around it. To get a better idea what they look like, look it up in your favorite web browser.

  75. Kevin Lawson says:

    I don’t see anywhere it states that the Company had sufficient rodent/bug service. If the warehouse or area where the IP is assigned to complete his duties is not “reasonably” serviced, I should think the court got it wrong this time!

  76. Steven Nagle says:

    Obviously the judge took a bung. Employers are required to ASSESS ALL RISKS to health and safety, and whether or not the risk (Likelihood) is greater/not greater than the public at large, this risk should have been assessed and appropriately thick gloves provided as a minimum. The courts have failed catastrophically in this instance. The fact that nobody else had been bitten in the previous two years means nothing. Someone can work at an unguarded machine for two years before having an accident. There is no defence for this. Moreover, once this risk was identified, some sort of pest control regime should have been implemented, and the spiders cleared away (just like with FALSE WIDOW spiders). I would also wager there was no information provided about the risks from these spiders to employees, and given that the spiders are predators in nature, their ability to creep up on someone undertaking a task like sweeping, where people tend to switch their brain into ‘autopilot mode’ would have generally made the worker oblivious to the approach of the predator. Whilst that last statement might seem a bit ‘over dramatic’, that’s how nature works. It should be considered as part of the risk assessment process.

  77. Maria Samuels says:

    This just happened to me a few weeks ago. I was bitten on my lower leg, at least 8 times and missed a week of work. The infection spread overnight. It went from my toes all the way up to my knee. I was unable to even walk on it. It was so bad, that when I went to the urgent care, the doctor thought a blood clot had formed. He sent me for an ultrasound test at the main hospital. I now have a bill over $2,000. If anything, I feel that the job should cover the medical costs. Especially since it’s a partnering hospital I was treated at.

  78. I and a co worker got bit by fleas three days apart.i got a slight infection and she got a major one.she filed for WC and I didn’t because I knew my job has no control over who carries in fleas and I am highly allergic so no, I didn’t see wasting time in Co worker has made this a huge issue,the WC doc told her to evelate the affected leg at work if she could. She took a week off because she said our job wouldn’t accommodate her.she now has a meeting with the RTW coordinator and is going to demand they provider her with a pillow at work to put her leg up. I told her that they won’t and it’s stupid she has carried it this far.she said oh well WC is going to pay big because most likely she will get an infection in the future unrelated to the bite.she said no. I can’t argue with someone who thinks they know everything.oh and this bite made her 18th WC case opened and approved.yes, I feel she is abusing the system in california.what do you think.

  79. Beth dennis says:

    I was recently bit by a brown recluse spider at work. I work in a nursing facility. A resident had ask me to straighten her closet up. I received the bit while cleaning her closet. I told my supervisor. The next day I called and told my boss I wouldnt be in as my arm had swelled up and it looked horrible. I stated I was on my way to the er. I was then told in a rude and harsh manner that I “had” to come in after my er visit. The following day I go in with a doctor note. I asked. One. Of the nurses if she could bandage it up and she proceeded to pick and squeeze the bit site. When I woke up the next morning it had gotten worse. So I called and told my boss I would not be there as I had to return to the er. Yesterday was a week since the bit took place. And as I’m standing there as the wound nurse is looking at it and putting dressing on it. The director of nursing says to me “I need you to sign this right up for your and absences” yes as im standing there with a big hole in my arm im being wrote up even though both times I had a doctors note. I’m a cna I lift people. I cant do my job with a big whole in my arm. These people that run this nursing facility dont give a scrap about the health of there employees. I dont want wc. But they have pushed me to speak to a lawyer. I cant work with a big hole in my arm. And the Director of nursing and administrator both seen the bit. They obviously dont care because “I have to be there or else….” Or else what? They’ll fire me? For a spider bite I got in there facility? If one of the residents got bit by a brown recluse it would surely be the end of them… But I have yet to see any pest. Control.

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