Oceguera v. Labor Commission, 2020 UT App 83, — P.3d —.

Worker’s compensation Claimant with preexisting osteoarthritis in knee sought review of the Utah Labor Commission’s Appeals Board decision adopting the decision of Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) to dismiss Claimant’s request for TTD after claimant tore her meniscus while working as a seamstress, for lack of legal causation.

Claimant’s job required her to operate a sewing machine with a pedal. While so doing, her foot slipped on a piece of cloth and twisted inward, causing sharp pain and a crack in Claimant’s right knee. Doctors diagnosed her with a torn meniscus and preexisting osteoarthritis in the injured knee. The medical panel determined that the preexisting osteoarthritis allowed the injury to occur with reduced force that likely would not have caused a meniscal tear in a healthy knee. The ALJ determined that one’s foot slipping is a common place occurrence in modern, nonemployment life and dismissed Claimant’s TTD claim.

Issue 1: The Allen test does not apply here because the preexisting condition must be a significant or substantial cause of the workplace injury.

The Utah Court of Appeals recognized that they may not add a threshold element that the preexisting condition be “significant” or “substantial” when Utah Supreme Court cases, Allen and Murray, hold that the preexisting condition need only contribute to the injury.    

Issue 2: Legal Causation is satisfied anyway.

Claimant satisfies Allen because she was in a hurry, she applied significant pressure to the foot pedal, and that foot pedal had no grip tape and was covered by a stray piece of cloth. People in normal daily life rarely encounter situations like that. People seldom need to depress foot pedals, and they are not usually in a hurry if they do. Further, the unanticipated and awkward manner in which her foot slipped off the pedal was at least as awkward and unusual as the activities in Peterson (twisting and reaching for a cake) and American Roofing (bucket snagged). So her employment contributed something substantial to increase the risk she already faced in everyday life. Id. at ¶¶ 24–27.

Want to know more?  Contact Christin Bechmann at cbechmann@pollartmiller.com or 877-259-5693.

August 2020 Newsletter