Michael Caputo v. ABC Fine Wine & Spirits
On March 3, 2010, Claimant, an electrician for the Employer, fell and hit his head on the floor while cutting down shelving with a saw in the Employer's store. Claimant was diagnosed with left temporal hemorrhage, seizure disorder possibly secondary to the left temporal hemorrhage, and toxic encephalopathy secondary to the left temporal hemorrhage. There was no dispute Claimant was on the Employer's premises and performing his job duties when injured.
Claimant filed a petition for benefits seeking a determination that the accident was compensable, TTD benefits, penalties, interest, attorney's fees, and costs. The Employer/Carrier (E/C) denied the claim on the basis that Claimant's fall resulted either from a pre-existing or idiopathic condition.
Although Claimant recalled working that day, he had no recollection of how the accident occurred. Claimant's independent medical examiner (IME) opined that, rather than a seizure or fainting spell, Claimant's head impacting the floor caused Claimant's closed-head injuries. The doctor was unable to state within a reasonable degree of medical certainty whether any factor related to employment caused the fall. The E/C's IME also opined that the blow to Claimant's head was from the floor, and not the fall, and caused his brain to hemorrhage. In February, 2008 Claimant fell in the shower, resulting in a 10-second loss of consciousness, head trauma, and concussion.
The JCC denied compensability of Claimant's injury. The JCC found that no objective medical evidence supported a finding that the work performed caused Claimant to fall because "neither [IME] could opine with certainty whether the seizure precipitated the fall or occurred as a result of the fall." Although the JCC specifically rejected the E/C's defense that Claimant had a pre-existing condition which predisposed him to falling, the JCC found the Claimant's fall was idiopathic, and was not caused by the employment.
The First District held that in the absence of any evidence which could support a finding there were competing causes of Claimant's accidental injuries, the JCC erred in ruling his injuries were not compensable. It was undisputed Claimant's closed-head injuries resulted from Claimant's head impacting the floor while Claimant was removing shelving from the Employer's store. Further, the JCC found Claimant had no pre-existing conditions which may have caused Claimant to fall. In the absence of competing causes of Claimant's accidental injuries, the Court found the Claimant satisfied the major contributing cause requirement when evidence showed he was removing shelving in the Employer's store at the time of the accident and suffered closed-head injuries as a result of the accident.
In the absence of any other ascertainable cause, Claimant established a sufficient connection between his work and the accident in question by producing evidence that he was cutting down shelving with a saw in the Employer's store, performing one of his job duties. Thus, the JCC erred in ruling that Claimant's injuries were not compensable.