Frankfort, KY (WorkersCompensation.com) – A preexisting condition, not what happened on the job, caused a Kentucky worker’s pain according to the state’s top court.
In Currens v. RJ Insulation, No. 2020-SC-0298-WC (Ky. 04/29/21, unpublished), the Kentucky Supreme Court rejected a worker’s claims for a permanent impairment rating because she had sought treatment for her condition several days before experiencing an at-work injury.
While performing a job for her employer insulation company, the company attempted to carry two spray-foam canisters down a set of stairs at a client’s home. In doing so, the worker tripped and fell down 15 steps, experiencing several injuries as a result.
The worker finished her shift and reported to the work the next day. However, due to pain, the worker missed several days of work and sought medical treatment. A surgeon ordered the worker to wear a boot, and she was off work for roughly four months.
When the worker returned to work, the company terminated her for failing to report for a shift. After the termination, the worker filed a claim with the state’s Department of Workers’ Claims, seeking permanent and temporary wage and medical benefits.
While the company agreed that the worker experienced a work-related injury, it disputed her claim that the injury was sufficient for a permanent impairment rating. Instead, the company argued that any lasting impairment the worker had resulted from a pre-existing, non-work-related condition.
In support of its stance, the company noted the worker’s “long-standing” complaint of cervical radiculopathy, for which she had sought treatment before the workplace injury.
At a hearing, an administrative law judge concluded that the worker experienced temporary injuries from falling at work and required no additional treatment. On appeal, the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Board agreed with the ALJ, prompting the worker to take her case to court.
The appeals court agreed with the board and the ALJ, so the worker appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Under Kentucky law, to be compensable an injury must be work-related and the proximate cause of the worker’s diagnosis, meaning that the injury can’t be attributable to another cause.
In the worker’s case, the Kentucky Supreme Court found that the ALJ appropriately rejected the worker’s doctor’s assertion that the worker had not sought treatment for cervical radiculopathy. Contrary to this claim, the company presented records indicating that the worker had sought treatment for the condition “days before her injury.”
The court ultimately held that the worker’s fall caused “only temporary soft tissue injuries” and that her other complaints had an independent cause. Thus, it upheld the previous decisions in the company’s favor.