Teaching Workers’ Compensation Causation in Law School — Workers’ Compensation Law Prof Blog

I’m fortunate to have had all my workers’ compensation students as torts students in their first year of law school. I’m in a good position to explain to them that references in workers’ compensation statutes and cases to legal phrases…

via Teaching Workers’ Compensation Causation in Law School — Workers’ Compensation Law Prof Blog

2 thoughts on “Teaching Workers’ Compensation Causation in Law School — Workers’ Compensation Law Prof Blog

  1. Part of the problem is that many legislatures’ are including some concepts of fault within the workers compensation statutes. For example Kansas indicates a reckless disreguard of safety rules or devices is the basis to deny workers compensation. Employee fights are non compensable even if clearly work related. Horseplay is not compensable, even if accepted and encouraged by the employer.

    In addition, an accident arising either directly or indirectly from idiopathic causes are no longer compensable. The meaning of idiopathic is the subject of a Supreme Court case; Graber v. Dillions. Oral arguments were a few weeks ago. I argued that “idiopathic” means personal/innate while the attorney for Dillions argued that it means “unexplained”.

    Mr. Graber fell down a flight of stairs, suffered a closed head injury and cervical fracture. Because of the severity of his injuries, he did not remember the accident. However, there did not appear to be any evidence that he fell due to a personal health condition. If Dillions wins this case- because of the directly or indirectly language in the statute, Mr. Graber’s claim will be non -compensable despite the obvious work risk, ie the stairs which he had to go up and down as part of his job duties.

    Even though the work accident is directly tied to a work risk, it would not be covered by workers compensation. We have a rash of cases where insurance companies are denying claims because the claimant can not explain the exact mechanism of the fall.

    There are lots of examples, at least in both Kansas and Missouri comp law, the the gradual inclusion of the concepts of fault in workers compensation.


    • Absolutely, Jan. In my workers’ compensation textbook I call this “tort creep.” As an aside, on the unexplained fall/idiopathic fall question, some states utilize the positional risk test in unexplained falls. I cover the issue at pp. 74-79 of my text and you are probably aware of the Larson treatise entry but I will state for the benefit of my readership that it is located at 1 Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law s. 7.04. Mike


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