In Martin, the claimant sustained a compensable injury for which surgery on his shoulder was needed. The ALJ found that at some point his treating surgeon and physical therapist had outlined some strengthening exercises for claimant to do on his own. He joined Planet Fitness (not prescribed by an authorized provider and not paid for by the respondents) and herniated a disk in his back while allegedly doing exercises related to his shoulder. The back eventually required surgery.
At hearing on the relatedness of the back surgery to the original compensable injury, the ALJ held that the subsequent back injury and surgery were compensable under the quasi-course of employment doctrine because the claimant was required to perform the physical therapy as part of his workers’ compensation participation. On appeal the respondents argued that the injury did not occur while receiving authorized medical treatment because the specific exercise claimant was performing at the time he injured himself was not explicitly prescribed by his doctor. Indeed, the Planet Fitness membership itself was not an authorized medical benefit paid for by the respondents, or even recommended by the treating physicians.
The Panel affirmed the ALJ’s order, explaining that under the quasi-course of employment doctrine, injuries sustained during treatment of the industrial injury are generally compensable as a consequence of the industrial injury. The doctrine is restricted to injuries arising out of “authorized” treatment. However, the doctrine is not limited to injuries sustained while actually engaged in a particular medical treatment explicitly “prescribed” by the authorized treatment physician. To the contrary, the quasi-course of employment doctrine applies to post-injury activities undertaken by the employee which, although they take place outside the time and space limits of the employment, and would not be considered employment activities for usual purposes, are nevertheless related to the employment in the sense that they are necessary or reasonable activities that would not have been undertaken but for the compensable injury. As such, the Panel held that the claimant’s back surgery was related to the original compensable injury.
Martin v. Black Hills Corp., W.C. No. 4-924-715-03 (ICAO Oct. 11, 2018)
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