Course and Scope
Horace Brown, 65 Van Natta 159 (January 22, 2013). Claimant, a truck driver, pulled over at a rest stop to clean his windshield. He dropped the spray can which he had used to clean the windshield, and went to retrieve it. Claimant then had a syncopal episode—he stated the next thing he remembered was driving down the highway at 25 miles an hour with a bump on the side of his head. The carrier denied claimant’s injury claim. The ALJ upheld the denial, finding that the injury did not “arise out of” claimant’s employment.
Dr. Scheler initially treated claimant, and listed a number of possible explanations for claimant’s syncope including a metabolic encephalophathy related to chronic opioids and muscle relaxers, and chronic headaches versus migraines. The doctor also noted claimant had a past history of post-concussion syndrome. Dr. Haddeland, the primary care physician, initially opined claimant sustained some type of minor head trauma in the course of his employment. He also agreed the various potential idiopathic causes of whatever happened, as identified by Dr. Scheler, could not be ruled out. He added it was unknown whether claimant “lost consciousness because he hit his head or lost consciousness prior to hitting his head.”
The Board affirmed the ALJ and found the injury did not arise out of claimant’s employment. On the medical evidence presented, the Board found claimant, at most, established that it was equally possible that idiopathic factors or work-related factors caused claimant’s fall. The Board emphasized for a fall to be truly unexplained (i.e., to arise out of employment as a matter of law), claimant must persuasively eliminate all idiopathic factors of causation. Here, claimant did not meet this burden.
Florence M. Norwood, 65 Van Natta 154 (January 23, 2013). Claimant sustained multiple injuries when a car hit her while she was walking back to her place of employment after taking mail to the post office for the employer. The carrier denied the claim, contending, among other things, that the injury did not occur in the course of claimant’s employment because claimant left the workplace on that day to walk for her own personal pleasure (i.e., a recreational activity). The ALJ set aside the denial.
The Board affirmed the ALJ. The Board reiterated the established principle that only if the worker’s personal pleasure was the fundamental or principal reason, in relation to work-related reasons, for engaging in that activity would the resulting injury be noncompensable. The Board was not persuaded that personal pleasure was the principle reason for claimant’s activity at the time of the injury based on the following key facts: (1) the post office was claimant’s only destination; (2) claimant paid for postage to mail the employer’s business mail with a business check signed by the employer; and (3) claimant was returning to the office after completing this task when she was injured.