MO Workers Comp Update – New Commission Reverses Perm Total award for tripping over a dog in a waiting room
This is the first major decision from the new Missouri Industrial Commission where Gov. Greitens appointed the Employer rep, Reid Forrestor, and Gov. Parson appointed the new Chairman, Robert Cornejo, just last month.
You can read the Commission’s decision in Lucielle Schoen v. Mid Missouri Mental Health by clicking HERE.
Claimant inhaled bug spray at work. About a week after the the inhalation she was sent to a doctor for an examination. There was a dog in the waiting room. As the claimant was walking back to see the doctor, she either tripped over the dog or tripped over the doctor’s leg as the doctor was re-directing the dog. Either way, claimant tripped and fell, aggravating her pre-existing knee problems and her pre-existing back problems.
The Administrative Law Judge awarded permanent total disability against the Employer, past medical expenses of about $40k, and future medical care for the rest of her life. The ALJ stated this in his award:
“There is no question that the May 8, 2009 exposure to (bug spray) is the prevailing factor in the cause of the pulmonary and upper respiratory irritation that Claimant has experienced. The incident at Dr. Runde’s office on May 22, 2009, resulting in a fall, is part and parcel of the May 8, 2009 work accident.”
The new Industrial Commission reversed, found that the claimant’s problems from inhaling the bug spray resolved with no PPD, and determined that the fall in the doctor’s office was NOT compensable. Award of Perm Total benefits reversed an no additional benefits were awarded.
Missouri law is very clear on this….injuries that occur as a result of medical care provided for work injury is part of the original work injury. For example, if claimant has compensable knee surgery and the claimant develops a blood clot on the surgery table and dies, the death is considered compensable because it occurred DURING medical care.
In the present case, claimant’s trip and fall in the doctor’s waiting room did NOT occur during the course of medical care. It occurred while she was walking through the doctor’s office which, last time I checked, was not considered medical care.
In Bear v. Anson Implement, Inc., the Missouri Court of Appeals cautioned against concluding,
under Missouri law, that anything happening to an injured worker in the course of a visit
to a doctor is compensable. Claimant clearly has a negligence action against the doctor’s office, but the Commission accurately assessed that walking though a doctor’s office does not equate to receiving medical care.
There is no doubt whatsoever that this case is heading to the Court of Appeals because the issue here is a legal, not factual. I will keep you advised as this case moves through the appellate process.
If you want to discuss the implications of this decision or how this might affect any present claims you may have, please let me know.