ILNews

Judges reverse dismissal of workers' compensation claim

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a workers’ compensation claim, finding the worker’s deposition testimony didn’t support the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board’s finding that he admitted his condition stemmed from a single incident.

In Darryl Harris v. United Water Services, Inc., No. 93A02-1010-EX-1164, Darryl Harris and his former employer differ on whether his medical issues stemmed from a specific incident while he worked for waste water treatment plant United Water Services Inc.

Harris was working in December 2005 when waste water splashed him in the face and he may have ingested some. That led to immediate mouth pain and it was determined he had a dental cavity and sebaceous cyst on his chin. He later began having acid reflux issues and eventually developed an ulcer and gastric cancer.

In May 2008, Harris pursued a workers’ compensation claim and an occupational disease claim. United Water filed a motion to dismiss because it believed that all of Harris’ medical conditions stemmed from the December 2005 incident and because he didn’t file his claim until more than two years later, the statute of limitations had run. Harris claimed his medical condition is an occupational disease and his condition is a repetitive injury.

The single hearing member granted the motion to dismiss and the full board affirmed. The full board found Harris admitted the injury occurred in December so the statute of limitations had expired for him to file a workers’ compensation claim. It also held he suffered an injury and not an occupational disease and his claim was untimely.

After determining the more deferential standard of review should apply, the judges reversed the full board’s decision. The board’s analysis stemmed from its finding that Harris admitted that the injury occurred in December and that the applicable statute of limitations in the context of a workers’ compensation claim had expired, but that wasn’t a reasonable characterization of his deposition testimony, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

“Harris merely speculated that the December 15, 2005, incident was the starting point or a major factor in his illness; however, he by no means conceded that his condition was caused solely by that single exposure,” he wrote.

It also appeared the board confused the issues and applied the wrong burden of proof. It seemed the board expected Harris to come forward with proof of causation in order to survive the motion to dismiss. But Harris only has the burden of proof on the elements of his claim and it is United Water that has to prove the alleged grounds for dismissal, wrote the judge.

The Court of Appeals remanded for the board to reconsider the motion to dismiss applying the correct burden of proof.

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  1. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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