Imagine this: A worker has surgery to insert metal plates and screws to repair damaged discs in his neck. He says his injury happened at work … when he sneezed.
And since he claims it happened at work, the employee wants workers’ comp (WC) benefits.
Joseph Hopper says he was injured at work when he reached to grab a tire while unloading a truck. He claims he didn’t report the injury because his supervisor wasn’t at work.
Hopper says ten days later, he was opening the shop when he sneezed and heard a popping sound in his back. The pain was so bad, according to Hopper, that he had to leave work.
After having the neck surgery, Hopper applied for WC benefits.
His boss testified that Hopper didn’t report a work-related injury, but told him that he’d injured his neck at home.
A doctor testified in support of Hopper, saying “when the sneeze happened [it] finally sort of put him over the edge.”
However, hospital records show that when Hopper went to the emergency room because of pain, he said the sneeze “happened at night,” which would have put him at home at the time of the incident.
At one point, Hopper was awarded WC benefits, but his employer appealed. The state WC commission reversed its ruling, then Hopper appealed.
Now a state appeals court has upheld the commission’s second opinion that comp benefits should be denied. Since Hopper didn’t report a work injury and he was on record as saying the sneeze happened at night, the court said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the injury happened at work.
What about the claim that a sneeze can cause a neck or back injury? This season, LA Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy reported that he aggravated a herniated disc in his lower back by sneezing. And we found several articles on the Web that say a sneeze can cause a back injury.
What’s the strangest injury claim you’ve ever heard? Let us know in the Comments Box below.
Cite: Hopper v. Krevinec, Crt. of Appeals of MS, No. 2009-WC-00206-COA, 1/19/10 (PDF).