Colo. Worker Shows Head Injury Happened ‘In Course of’ Employment

15 Apr, 2024 Frank Ferreri


Kiowa, CO ( -- When a worker alleges that he has an injury that happened on the job, one of the first things he'll need to do is show that it happened in the course of and arose out of his employment.

In Kiowa v. Industrial Claims Appeals Office, No. 2024COA36 (Colo. Ct. App. 04/11/24), the court determined that the evidence pointed in that direction given a knock on the head a worker experienced on the job before having symptoms that led to two cranial surgeries and seizures.

A public works manager for a town was repairing a chain on a street sweeper when he hit his head on a piece of equipment. The blow made him feel "goofy," "dazed," "wobbly" and "fuzzy pretty fast."

After about a month, the manager's wife took him to an emergency room because he was dragging his foot. A CT scan revealed a large collection of fluid compressing the right side of the manager's brain. The manager underwent an emergency craniotomy for evacuation of a subdural hematoma.

After the manager was discharged from the hospital, he had a seizure, prompting doctors to perform another craniotomy. Following these procedures, the manager continued to have cognitive difficulties and was unable to return to work.

When the manager, through counsel, filed a workers' compensation claim, the down filed a notice of contest, denying that the injuries were work-related.

An administrative law judge ruled that the injury occurred in the scope of employment and ordered the town to pay all authorized, reasonably necessary, and related medical benefits along with temporary total disability benefits. A panel affirmed.

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The town appealed to court, arguing that the manager was not injured in the course of his employment due to two incidents that occurred at home in which the manager scraped his head on the door of a shed and fell out of his boat while cleaning it.

Longstanding precedent in Colorado, which was handed down in Prouse v. Industrial Commission, 194 P. 625 (Colo. 1920), has maintained that a workers' compensation claimant must establish a definitive time, place, and cause of injury.

The court upheld the rulings from the panel and the ALJ in the manager's favor, citing:

+ Testimony from the manager's wife that he started showing the effects and symptoms of a subdural hematoma shortly after the street sweeper incident, including chages in speech, slowness of reactions or actions, memory loss, and loss of function in his upper extremities.
+ A town administrator noticed that "something was not right" with the worker after the incident.

The court found that the ALJ and the panel followed precedent in reaching their rulings.

"The time, place, and cause were traced through the testimony of [the manager], his wife, and his surgeon," the court wrote. "We cannot say that the ALJ or the Panel erred as a matter of law by concluding that [the manager] established a reasonably definite time and place of the accident."

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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