An employee suffered a hernia at home but claimed it was work-related. Did he get workers’ comp benefits?
James Ball slipped and fell at work in 1993, injuring his shoulder, neck, back and right leg. He was awarded permanent total disability benefits.
Part of his treatment for pain included implantation of a spinal cord stimulator in 2000.
By 2006, the original stimulator wasn’t working and a new one was implanted.
The new stimulator occasionally delivered “good jolts” to Ball, as he described them. These jolts occurred without warning.
In July 2007, Ball was at home lying in bed when he experienced one of these jolts that caused him to attempt to stand up quickly. As he tried to stand, Ball fell. Afterward, he noticed a new pain in his left groin.
Ball was diagnosed with a hernia and had surgery. Based on his description of how he fell after receiving a jolt from the stimulator, a doctor concluded that the hernia developed as a result of Ball’s work-related injury — the stimulator was necessary because of Ball’s 1993 injury, and its malfunction caused Ball to fall which in turn caused the hernia.
The Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division appealed, saying that the hernia wasn’t work-related.
As the case was appealed, Ball won some rounds and the Division won some. The case eventually worked its way up to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court noted that Wyoming law says an injury is covered under workers’ comp if there exists a connection “between the injury and some condition, activity, environment or requirement of the employment,” and that “a hernia, like any other injury, is compensable whether it occurs on of off the premises of the employer, as long as the required nexus exists between the employee’s work and the hernia.”
The court’s conclusion: The stimulator, part of treatment for Ball’s original work injury, caused his subsequent hernia — a link between a work injury and the injury at home had been made. The court ordered for Ball to receive workers’ comp benefits.
(Ball v. WY Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division, Supreme Court of WY, No. S-09-0165, 9/22/10)
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