Strenuous Work Over 39 Days Caused Stroke
Gordon v. Turner Industries Group, LLC, No. 13-CA-196 (La. Ct. App. 10/09/13)
Ruling: The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that a boilermaker was entitled to indemnity and medical benefits for his stroke.
What it means: In Louisiana, a worker’s stroke is not compensable unless he can show that the physical work stress was extraordinary and unusual in comparison to the average worker in the profession and the physical work stress or exertion was the predominant cause of his stroke.
Summary: A boilermaker began experiencing arm, neck, and body pain while operating a forklift that eventually rendered him unable to speak or talk. At the employer’s nurse’s station, he was diagnosed with food poisoning. After resting at home for two days without improvement, he went to the emergency room and was diagnosed as having suffered a stroke. The boilermaker sought workers’ compensation benefits. The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that he was entitled to benefits.
The employer was engaged in a “turnaround” until two weeks before the stroke. During a turnaround, employees were expected to work 80 to 90 hours per week, as opposed to the 40 hours per week during regular maintenance. The employer’s policy was for boilermakers to work 13 days straight and then take one day off. The boilermaker worked 39 continuous days with only one day off. During the majority of those days, he worked 11.5 hour shifts of strenuous physical labor. The court found that his work schedule caused extraordinary and unusual physical work stress in comparison to the ordinary stress experienced by the average boilermaker.
The court said that just because all of the boilermakers the employer allowed to work more than 13 days in a row did not have strokes did not mean that the boilermaker’s work schedule was not extraordinary and unusual in comparison to the average boilermaker. Two coworkers said that it was unusual for a boilermaker to work more than one month without a day off.
The court pointed out that the boilermaker’s stroke occurred two weeks after the turnaround ended. He continued to work seven days per week without time off during the employer’s regular maintenance schedule.
The court also concluded that the boilermaker’s physical work stress was the predominant and major cause of his stroke. A doctor opined that the stroke was related to his work, pointing out that the boilermaker was 36 years old and had no preexisting conditions that could have contributed to his stroke.