A worker claims a workplace knee injury and subsequent surgery caused an infection. How can you tell if the infection is really work-related and if it should be covered by workers’ comp?
Juneau County, WI, sheriff’s Detective Tim Andres injured his knee at work. The county didn’t dispute that his injury and the surgery that followed were work-related and covered by workers’ comp.
Andres suffered a knee infection after the surgery. An administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled the infection was also work-related.
The county disputed the finding about the infection. However, a review commission sided with the ALJ, as did a state court. The county continued to appeal the decision, and now a Wisconsin appeals court has issued its ruling.
Andres’ employer argued there was legitimate doubt whether work was the cause of the detective’s infection.
The county pointed to notes in Andres’ medical records indicating the detective told his doctor he went into a hot tub about a week after his surgery. Andres had testified to the ALJ that he didn’t use a hot tub after the surgery.
His employer said the inconsistencies between the medical records and his testimony created a legitimate doubt about the cause of the infection.
The appeals court said the disputed testimony raised only a question of credibility, not a legitimate doubt.
It noted the ALJ found Andres to be credible and that his doctor said the knee infection was a direct result of his work injury and subsequent surgery.
The appeals court said it wasn’t going to second-guess the ALJ. For those reasons, it upheld the award of workers’ comp benefits for the infection to Andres. Now Andres and his attorney are owed $73,000.
What do you think about the decision in Andres case? Let us know in the comments below.
(Juneau County v. LIRC, WI Court of Appeals, No. 2011AP2947, 1/17/13)
(Note: To show just how serious these post-surgery infections can be, check out this case about an employee who injured his ankle at work, had surgery and then died from a related infection. Do you think the employee’s widow got workers’ comp death benefits?)