On December 14, 2012, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released its opinion in Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company v. Marvin Wilson. On appeal, was the trial court’s holding that the employee’s current complaints of back pain were caused, at least in part, by a 1986 lumbar back strain. The 1986 claim resulted in a 1987 lawsuit which was subsequently settled with future medical benefits remaining open. Per the authorized treating physician, he had been treating the employee from time to time from 1987 until the present. However, it was his opinion that the employee’s current complaints were likely due to his degenerative arthritis rather than the original compensable lumbar strain. In holding the employer to be responsible for the current care, the trial judge noted that the physician could not rule out with certainty that the lumbar strain did not, at least, contribute to the employee’s degenerative arthritis. In reversing the trial court, the Court of Appeals noted that the physician’s testimony only provided a mere possibility that the current back pain and the 1986 injury were related. As such, the trial judge’s holding was not considered to be supported by substantial evidence.

My Two Cents: At the trial of this case, it was assumed that the burden of proof was on the employer to prove that the current complaints of pain were not related to the previously accepted and compensable injury. However, it should be noted that it is always the burden of the employee to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the complaint for which he or she seeks medical treatment arose out of and in the course of his or her employment.

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About the Author

This article was written by Michael I. Fish, Esq. of Fish Nelson LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing employers, self-insured employers and insurance carriers in workers’ compensation matters. Fish Nelson is a member of The National Workers’ Compensation Network (NWCDN). If you have any questions about this article or Alabama workers’ compensation issues in general, please feel free to contact the author at mfish@fishnelson.com or any firm member at 205-332-3430.