Workers’ comp boards and courts draw a fine line between what is and what isn’t a work-related injury that qualifies for benefits. See if you can guess how the court ruled in this case:
Michael Haley worked in a shipping yard which handled arriving and departing tractor trailers and the loading and unloading of the trucks. Part of his regular duties included climbing into and out of truck cabs.
One day at work, when he stepped into the cab of a truck, he felt a spasm in his left leg.
Haley didn’t climb the step in an unusual or awkward way, and there wasn’t anything strenuous about stepping up a total of 16 inches.
After the spasm, Haley had no strength in his leg and had trouble moving it.
Doctors diagnosed a ruptured quadriceps tendon and performed surgery quickly thereafter. Complications soon developed, causing Haley to walk with a cane for some time after the injury.
He applied for workers’ comp. The state comp commission found that he hadn’t proven his injury “arose out of” his employment and denied his claim for benefits. Haley appealed.
A state appeals court upheld the comp commission’s decision, so Haley didn’t get benefits.
Haley had argued that the 16-inch step was higher than a normal step that most people would encounter outside of work, and for that reason, he should get comp.
However, the court noted that doctors weren’t able to explain any link between Haley’s work duties and the rupture. All they were able to say is that the injury occurred at work.
“At work” isn’t necessarily good enough to qualify for workers’ comp. Case closed: The company won.
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Cite: Haley v. Springs Global U.S., Inc. and Zurich American Insurance Co., Court of Appeals of Virginia, No. 2841-08-3, 8/18/09.