What constitutes loss of use of feet and hands to qualify for permanent disability? A state court says it’s not necessary for employees to actually injure their feet or hands for that to be the case.
The case involves the award of lifetime income benefits (LIBS) to an employee by the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Carmen Muro was injured at work when she slipped and fell on a bathroom floor. She says she fell backwards and raised her right arm to prevent her head from hitting a toilet.
She injured her neck, right shoulder, lower back and hips, and underwent six surgeries on her back, hips and right shoulder.
The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania denied her LIBS. If she didn’t receive LIBS, disability payments would run out after about eight years. The comp commission ruled in Muro’s favor.
The insurer appealed the case to a state trial court where a jury also decided for Muro. The case then went to the state appeals court.
The insurer argued Muro wasn’t entitled to LIBS because she didn’t suffer a direct injury to her feet and right hand.
The Texas labor code says LIBS are paid for permanent loss of both feet, or permanent loss of one foot and one hand, due to injury in the workplace.
The insurer said Muro’s injuries only affected her feet and right hand indirectly.
The appeals court rejected this argument, saying it was enough that Muro’s limitations on her use of her feet and right hand were due to her injuries and surgeries to her hips and shoulders. As one doctor stated, the hands rely on the shoulders to function and an injury to the hips affect the feet.
You can read the court’s full opinion here.
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