NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.
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NWCDN Case Summaries
Claimant injured his back picking up work equipment and was admitted to the hospital due to a gastrointestinal bleed. A few weeks later, he was re-admitted with severe back pain. Diagnosed with lower extremity edema, compression fracture in thoracic spine and severs destruction in the T9-T10 vertebra with possible discitis versus neoplastic process. Blood cultures confirmed presence of staphylococcus lugdunensis. Due to the infection, claimant became wheelchair bound. An ALJ found claimant’s back injury created the conditions for the infection and was compensable. On appeal, respondents argued the infection and its consequences were only compensable if they were the natural result of claimant’s work-related injury. The Court of Appeals (COA) disagreed and viewed the case under the “chain of causation analysis,” which is reserved for cases in which the industrial injury leaves the body in a weakened condition and the weakened condition plays a causative role in the subsequent injury.Jarosinski v. Indus. Claim Appeals Office, 62 P.3d 1082, 2086 (Colo. App. 2002). COA found it was not necessary for the work conditions to have directly caused claimant’s infection. Instead, it was sufficient if claimant’s weakened back condition played a “causative role” resulting in his disability. COA found a connection existed because of weakened back was a perfect breeding ground for infection.
City of Colorado Springs, Colorado v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office of the State of Colorado and Theodore E. Martinez, 19CA1795
Claimant installed drywall for employer and fell 14-feet and suffered a broken pelvis and two fractured vertebrae. Employer denied request for workers’ compensation benefits, because they asserted he was an independent contractor. After a hearing, the ALJ found claimant was an independent contractor when he weight factors set out in § 8-40-202(2). The ALJ listed a number of factual findings; claimant had executed a sub-contractor agreement, no training provided, employer did not oversee work, claimant obtained own insurance, claimant had taxpayer identification number, employer gave 1099 with “Noe Lopez Construction” identification, and claimant identified himself as self-employed. Claimant appealed. The ICAO Panel set aside the ALJ’s order by balancing factors set forth in Industrial Claim Appeals Office v. Softrock Geological Services, Inc., 2014 CO 30. The Panel found the claim compensable and respondent liable for consequential medical expenses. Respondent appealed. The Court of Appeals (COA) set aside the Panel’s order because neither the Panel nor the ALJ had the benefit of Pella Windows & Doors, Inc. v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office, 2020 COA 9.Pella held the factors articulated in Softrock applied in a workers’ compensation case along with factors in C.R.S. 8-70-115(1)(c). However, COA found the Panel exceeded its authority by improperly re-weighing evidence and applyingSoftrock to the facts. Under §8-43-301(8), a panel may only “correct, set aside, or remand” a judge’s order if the findings of fact are not supported by evidence, or do not support an order or law. The COA cited howPella found whether a worker is an independent contractor is a factual determination for an ALJ. So the Panel erred by looking at additional evidence and overlooking the facts the ALJ found. The Panel should have remanded the case with instructions for the judge to consider Softrock.
Holsinger Drywall Inc. and Pinnacol Assurance v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office and Neo Lopez, 19CA1013, May 28, 2020.
Summaries completed by Craig Campos, Esq. from the Fort Collins, CO. office of Ritsema & Lyon, P.C.