Safety and OSHA News

Worker still in court 27 years later for little toe injury


Ever face an appeal in a workers’ comp case? Then you know it can take a long time. But here’s a case that’s been in the courts for 27 years, and it isn’t over yet. And the injury was to the worker’s little toe.

Kirk Jacobs injured his toe in a work-related accident in 1982. He received workers’ comp benefits for a number of related conditions for many years, including for treatment of chronic abdominal pain.

What, you say? How is a toe injury related to abdominal pain?

Five months after his toe injury, Jacobs had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic used to treat an infection which had developed in his right foot. The reaction manifested itself as colitis and nerve damage which left Jacobs with severe chronic pain, according to his account.

But wait, there’s more.

In 2001, 19 years later, Jacobs sought benefits for lung problems in connection to the little toe injury. He argued that his abdominal pain required his continued use of narcotic pain medication. Because of his need for large amounts of pain medicine, he developed breathing and pulmonary problems requiring treatment.

His former employer and its insurance company thought all these claims had been settled and dismissed.

Jacobs appealed his case one more time to his state’s supreme court. In reviewing the long case history, the court recently determined that, while the claim for benefits for the lung problem had been properly dismissed, it could find no record that a final decision was ever entered regarding the chronic abdominal pain. The court has sent the case back for final review.

Twenty-seven years later, the case goes on.

What do you think about this case? What’s the longest you’ve ever had a workers’ comp case drag out? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

Cite: Jacobs v. Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Div., WY Supreme Court, No. S-08-0255, 9/25/09 (PDF).

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  1. Tort reform anyone?

  2. GARY BARNES says:

    It sounds like Kirk Jacobs is a very unlucky and accident prone employee. Or, he is really working the system. I wonder how is toe is doing these days. All kidding aside, 27 years and still in the courts is ridiculous. Or maybe the Worker’s Compensation Co. simply decided to ignore the claims and expected poor Mr. Jacobs would just give up. If that’s the case, then more power to Mr. Jacobs. I guess that’s what the court system is for. They will work it out someday.

  3. Amputation and a desk job would have solved it all.

  4. Mike Pyrtle says:

    Five years ago, I would have labeled the guy as a slug. We all live and learn. I have a son-in-law, a hard-charger who never needed to be goaded into working hard. Lost his job due to down-sizing. Shortly after benefits stopped, became gravely ill. The folks in the ER treated him like a second-class citizen because he was uninsured, despite the fact he had worked hard for the same employer for 12 years.

    If Mr. Jacobs’ claims can be supported properly. More power to him.

  5. I have a case that is still avtive after 15 years. Worker was injured as a result of his own unsafe act, injuring his elbow. He has not settled the case and will not accept a permanent cash settlement.
    When he gets any pain in has arm, elbow or left side he goes back to the doctor, but will not have surgery. There needs be a system established to get rid of this type of case. BUT, I know I’ll never see it in my lifetime.

  6. I know a guy that got his teeth knocked out by a piece of UHMW that was being cut on a table saw without a guard in place. Workman’s comp paid for the initial bridge work but the bridge work was wrong and the employee was in severe pain for a several years while trying to get workman’s comp to pay for the corrected bridge work. He had to drink everything through a straw and he was not the person operating the table saw. I worked with this guy and had to listen to him daily while he complained how much his teeth hurt and got detailed reports how his case was going.

    Even the dentists told workman’s comp that the bridge work was faulty and needed to be repaired but workman’s comp closed the case after the initial bridgework was done and extremely reluctant to reopen the case.

    Workman’s comp is a scam as far as I’m concerned. It would be cheaper for companies to just pay for medical care out of pocket then have to pay an insurance company that requires reimbursement from the company after services have been rendered. As far as I see it, the companies are having to pay twice for the same medical treatment.

    For this guy, it’s literally like pulling teeth, to get workman’s comp to authorize adequate medical attention.

  7. Unfortunately, the law that is meant to protect workers is the same law that allows excessive abuse. It forces us to spend more time on case management and to get better at working with our MCO’s or TPA’s. I think this falls in to the 80/20 rule and it seems like there isn’t a lot we can do to change law until there is a negative outcome that has a big Hollywood sized spotlight on it.
    The employers end up paying for fraud, other contries’ air emissions, fraud, did I mention fraud?
    And we wonder why the US economy continues to be unsettled….and the bad news is this is just a small slice of the economic pie that forces companies to do business outside of the US. The cost of doing business in the US….priceless…

  8. Robert Milling says:

    This is just the kind of case that will cause any reasonable and prudent person to gag to the max. The sytem is broken, the people who run it are broken, the judges and the attorneys and the doctors who live off the system are broken, if not financially at least morally. The system was meant to help people, not give them a womb to tomb income!!! America needs to get it straight, and I used to wonder why anyone would go “offshore” to run thelr business, I don’t wonder anymore! I wish I knew how to fix this grotesque mess we call Workers Compensation, the billions it would set free in cash would go a long way towards lifting this great country to its’ feet once again!!!!! An ya know what he should do with his little toe?????Too bad, this is family PC………an it would probably be anotomically impossible…..

  9. I feel that if the employee can justify and prove that the employer is at fault for his physical problems they should pay.

  10. An allergic reaction to a medicine prescribed by a physician? Isn’t that a medical error? Subject to malpractice?

  11. Betrayed Washintonian says:

    Consider Washington States L&I (Workers Comp). We’ve got an average of 266 days off work on ‘time-loss compensation’, nearly 3 times the national average. Lifelong pensions are being awarded at a 300% increased rate since 1996, and to top it off, in 2010 we get to look forward to another 7.6% rate increase during one of the worst recessions since the great depression.

    State run workers comp is by far, much worse that private run. The problem is in the system, we’ve got ‘Drs’ (chiropractors, nurses, and some M.D.s) who are more than willing to keep treating ‘subjective’ findings, while calling them ‘objective’ simply to keep their billing full, and to cover their backsides. While at the same time the state run agency hides behind poor interpretation of state law, and everyone falling into the bureaucratic lazyiness trap. Of course there are workers that will try to ‘score’ big winnings from injury too. It drives me mad when I speak with someone who doesn’t know I’m a business owner, and regarding L&I “here’s how you do it…” The problem is, they can get away with it!

    Hooray for small business, we’ve really scored in Washington state. Goodbye Boeing, thank you Governor Gregoire!

  12. Robert, you wrote about bridgework on teeth. Wouldn’t the party that made the bridge in the first place be responsible for the repair. They usually do fittings and there’s always adjustments to be made. Sounds like the bridge maker was being stinghy.

  13. Hello Lori,

    He did go back to the dentist that was of Workman’s Comp choosing several times. The dentist couldn’t do anything without Workman’s Comp approval. the dentist even told Workman’s Comp the work was faulty and needed to be redone but Workman’s Comp considered the case closed and this issue to be something new.

  14. It usually is not considered medical malpractice if a patient has a reaction to a medicine, and the patient states that they have “No Known Allergies”. It would be considered Medical Malpractice if the Doctor prescribe a medicine that he/she is aware that the patient is allergic to.

  15. Sounds to me that this guy has been on vacation on the system. He is lazy and has gave up on him self as a person and a man and they let him do it, THE SYSTEM.

  16. Safety Lady says:

    I think the guy is scamming the system. There are always people looking to retire from an injury. Why should a company have to pay and pay and pay. I can’t believe lung problems or abdominal problems relate to a toe injury. As for the guy with bad bridges can anyone say dentist looking for extra cash. Like they don’t have enough. I had a guy on light duty with the company I work for prior to my arrival for 5 years for a sprained ankle. Seriously 5 years. The man rode a Harley, played ball and did everything else under the sun. However, some Dr. seem to believe his claim to pain. What a joke. If people would be honest life would be so much easier and people that were actually hurt at work could be taken care of without everyone wondering and invesitgating what if any kind of scam they were playing. However, people being people, Lawyers on TV saying are you injured?…… many feel that they are owed something for nothing all the time. The system may be broke but it is lazy people who don’t want to work that broke it and unfortunately, it will never be fixed. So just investigate, document and if you have to, hire a private eye to watch the shady. Also, be smart and have a good back to work program so that injured employees have something to do other than watch the lawyers on TV.

  17. Safety Lady,

    You are absolutely right.

    Much of our regular medical insurance increases are due to people calling in sick when they are not and seeing a doctor just to get a note to excuse their absence.

    People abuse the system. The prices go up and up. People look for other ways to afford the same services with the increased prices and abuse the system even further.

    It’s a circle.

    It would also help if the big bonuses that goes to upper management was instead distributed as pay raises to the employees, who are the ones that make everything happen for upper management in the first place, so they could better afford the increased cost of living expenses and not have to abuse the system. Some people feel they are entitled to abuse the system to get something back because they aren’t being properly compensated elsewhere. That’s the big disparity between the rich and the poor.

  18. Huckelberry says:

    What did I read this right? I have broken my toes so many times you whould need a calculator to keep count.Mainly from playing base or softball off came the shoes out came the tape and I would tape it to the next toe and finish the game and never missed work. Infection yes blood posing up to my groin. Shot of antibiolic and over it and lost no work time. I also have colitis but to the best of my knowledge was not from any meds I have taken. Droctors will say what you want to hear to limint law suites. Have brothers who play the game well and have ate and drank from the public trough for years. I say hike up the panty hose and man up.Pain is Gods way of telling an old man he is still alive.

  19. The guy is working the system.
    Workman’s comp (a quick definition from wiki) is suppose to be payments in place of wages, compensation for economic loss, and reimbursement or payment of medical and like expenses…
    I’ve been there… injured, without a job, and bills to pay. You have to keep going. You can’t roll over and expect someone else to take care of you. You want to file a work comp case… do it, then GET A JOB.
    I wonder if that guy’s been working all this time? Or moved back into his parents, or living off his girlfriend and food stamps?
    My ex-wife was a State worker that took care of 100’s of cases of people applying for food stamps and assistance. Her stories made me sick. Of all her “clients”… 200+… I think about 10% were legitimate. 10% were people just needing a hand to get out of a hole, and get back on their feet. That’s what it’s meant for.
    This guy needs to go to Walmart and get some tampons and midol. Then find some heart.

  20. Injured Worker says:

    I beg to disagree with many of you.
    How many have tried to get a Workman’s Compensation Insurer pay for a procedure?
    In 2004 I had a Cervical injury. The IC refused to properly authorize treatment in a timely manner as per the law. Now after 6 years (Jan 5 2004) I have had a double fusion,(Feb 2005) but since I had used my 24 PT treatments in 2004 they would not authorize ANY further Phsyical Therapy. Now Fast Forward to 2009. Still TTD, Fusion Failed to heal,Colostomy from Cronic Narcotic Use, Chronic PAin Meds run $700 a Month (x 62 = $$$$$$).
    If they had Authorized the Surgery earlier and the PT post Surgery I would have been back to work.
    Since they chose to spend Dollars to Save Dimes. I am into them for 6 figures on the WCMSA alone.

    At My Company we had D.I.R.T.F.T (Dirtfoot) Do It Right The First Time.

    There never seems to be enough time to do it right, But there is always time to do it Over.

    How hard is it? You talk about the ones that are Ripping off Worker’s Comp.
    Hell I want to return to work. But I cannot even flip burgers at McDonalds because of the Failed Cervical Fusion. I want to be able to drive my car, Hold my Kids, do normal parenting things instead I am confined to a power chair or bed.
    Mine started out a Ruptured disc, it snowballed because the level of care the Insurance company would ALLOW was less than sub-standard. In any other occupation their actions would border on Criminal.
    Because one Claims Rep wanted to play hardball with my doctors, she is now out of a job, and the IC is on the hook for 6+ figures.

  21. Safety Lady says:

    Injured Worker, I am sorry that you had a claim rep that did not do her job. However, if you have worked in the field dealing with employees faking claims your attitude would be similar to many of ours. I am sure that you filed your injury in a timely manner as well as followed a treatment plan, even if it was not the right one, many people don’t. Why should companies and IC pay for a person who is just looking for something for nothing. The man I refered to earlier, after we came to a settlement, bragged to all of his fellow co-workers “I am set for life because of a sprained ankle.” Is that fair?

  22. Sheri E. Benedetto says:

    Hi everybody, well.i was injured in 2002 I was a recreation therapist. I fell on black ice coming out of work. They did an MRI and found out i needed a second opinion. So i went and this guy lied and and said i had arthritis in the left knee. But this Doctor saw me back in 1092 and said there was nothing wrong with the left knee. My lawyer went to court and red through medical documents said that the left knee was clear of arthritis. So the Doctor lied and i got the surgery. This took about 12 months and my foot started to turn in looking like a club foot.Then when i was having my knee replacement I cought sepsis, they did nkt find this out until they put me in rehab were i told that morning I was not feeling well. I went down to therapy and they i asked for a drink of water and spilled some on my leg and that was when they ended up rushing me to Princeton Hospital. They took my temp it was a 104 degrees, so they ran all kinds of test and found out that i had gotten sepsis. That is a blood infection. So i was in the hospital for 2 weeks with a pic line for IV therapy and being seen by a. infectious specialist. Then i came home and had another two weeks of IVs and seen by an infectious specialist. So after that was done pma insurance waited for to years and did another surgery on that left knee still with bending only about 50% and we started with the swelling of the leg.
    Then back in 2007 i kept complaining how I could not bend the leg and the swelling that some days I couldn’t even fit my pants over my leg. So my lawyer decided to send me to see the workman’s comp doctor he took one look at me and said boy you need treatment now this is horrible. As result of this the left leg still swells, gives out and makes me fall on one fall in particularly my hip was black and blue, I asked the insurance company not to send me to this one doctor this one doctor did seven surgeries and still could not get the leg right. They finally got me a little scooter a knee brace and change management for my chronic pain. just recently I fell because my knee gave out and I broke my right wrist that I had to pay for with my insurance . what i am angry about as I live on my social security disability and I feel they should be paying me the rest of my life about $50,000 a year or more because I’m never going to be right.
    But somebody that married a a veteran spousal survivor benefits but has no kids by this man and was not a veteran herself but makes $45,000 a year. and we have the warrior fund for veterans and other funding for veterans but you see homeless veterans with no money but they go to this woman who did absolutely nothing that was not a veteran and she gets $45,000 a year.
    but what gets me i fall on black ice coming out of work and i have to have all these problems and I get a rotten Social Security disability check every month. I did not ask to get hurt but I sure should be compensated for what has happened to me instead of living on a measly disability check. it has been 17 years for me and still fighting.

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