What Do You Think: Did 9-Hour Drive Cause Blood Clots for Driver with ‘Super Obesity’?

08 Jul, 2022 Frank Ferreri

                               

Salt Lake City, UT (WorkersCompensation.com) – Is sitting behind the wheel for a long time something that could be considered “extraordinary” for a long-haul truck driver? Possibly, and Utah’s highest court recently had to decide where the line between extraordinary and a normal work day fell.

At the end of a three-day drive from Utah to California, which included a stretch in which he drove for approximately nine hours with only one break and little movement of his left leg, a long-haul truck driver began experiencing swelling in that leg and shortness of breath.

After finishing his route, he went to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a blood clot in his left leg, which caused blood clots in his lungs. After his hospitalization, the driver could not return to work as a truck driver, and he sought workers’ compensation.

The company disputed the driver’s claim and argued that his injuries were actually caused by his “super obesity” due to the fact that the driver had a body mass index over 50. In the company’s view, the driver’s super obesity was a preexisting injury.

The case went before and administrative law judge, who determined that the driver’s super obesity was a preexisting condition. The Labor Commission Appeals Board reached a different conclusion, finding that the driver’s long-haul truck drive was an “unusual activity when compared to nonwork life.” The board sent the case back to the ALJ, who determined that the driver’s injuries were caused by his work.

The company appealed to the board, which affirmed the ALJ’s second decision, prompting the company to appeal to court. The court agreed with the company that the driver’s work activities were not unusual or extraordinary. The driver appealed to the Utah Supreme Court.

In Utah, to distinguish between a preexisting condition that only coincidentally occurs while an individual is working and injuries that are precipitated by an employment activity that increased the risk of injury normally faced by a worker in nonwork life, courts: 1) consider the totality of the circumstances to determine what workplace activity precipitated the injury; and 2) determine whether that activity was objectively unusual or extraordinary when compared to normal life activities.

Was the driver’s work leading up to the clots unusual or extraordinary?

A. Yes. Driving a commercial truck for nine hours in one day with only one break is not equivalent to ordinary, everyday nonwork activities.

B. No. Driving for nine hours is not usual or extraordinary work for a long-haul truck driver.

If you chose A, you agreed with the court in JBS Carriers v. Utah Labor Commission, No. 20210321 (Utah 06/30/22), which ruled in the driver’s favor. According to Utah’s top court, “driving a commercial diesel truck for approximately nine hours with only one break and a stationary left leg is not like the ordinary activities people do in everyday life.”

As a result, the court reversed the lower court’s ruling and concluded that the driver successfully showed that his employment activities were the legal cause of his injuries. The court explained that this conclusion meant that it did not need to address the question of whether the driver’s super obesity functioned as a preexisting condition.

This feature does not provide legal advice.


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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. Frank encourages everyone to consider helping out the Kind Souls Foundation and Kids' Chance of America.

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