Shop Hand's Case Bounces Back for Review of Back Pain's Cause

14 Feb, 2023 Frank Ferreri

Charleston, WV ( -- A preexisting injury isn't always the end of the story when it comes to a workers' compensation case, and the issue of compensability tends to be fact-specific in focusing on what pain a worker has experienced and when she experienced it.
Such was the casee in Butcher v. Parker Drilling Co., No. 21-0504 (W.Va. 01/23/23), where a worker had an old sports injury but wasn't really experiencing problems from it until doing some heavy lifting on the job.
A shop hand for a drilling company experienced a lower back injury while pulling on and brushing top drives, which weighed between 80 and 100 pounds, on the job. The shop hand had a history of lower back issues, including an injury that happened after being kneed in the back while playing football and pain that developed after playing basketball.
During one incident of back pain, an MRI showed mild degenerative disk disease, and it was noted that his back pain was a "recurrent problem."
While receiving treatment for the job-related injury, the shop hand underwent a CT scan that showed multiple bulging disks, and he received a diagnosis of lumbar spine sprain.
An administrator rejected the shop hand's workers' compensation claim, and the Office of Judges affirmed this rejection. According to the Office of Judges, the shop hand had significant preexisting back issues, including multilevel degenerative disk disease.
The shop hand appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Under West Virginia case law, a claimant's disability will be presumed to have resulted from a compensable injury if: 1) before the injury, the claimant's preexisting disease was asymptomatic; and 2) following the injury, the symptoms of the disabling disease or condition appeared and continuously manifested themselves afterward.
In reversing the decisions that ruled against the shop hand, the court explained that while the shop hand "clearly had preexisting low back issues," it was not determined whether the condition was asymptomatic prior to the compensable injury.
To answer that question, the court sent the case back to the Board of Review for further consideration.
Get the latest compliance information from West Virginia and the entire U.S. on WorkCompResearch

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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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