Worker Can’t Connect Hernia to Work Activities
Kershaw v. Workforce Safety and Insurance, No. 20130131 (N.D. 10/22/13).
Ruling: The North Dakota Supreme Court held that a worker was not entitled to benefits for his hernia.
What it means: In North Dakota, to demonstrate a causal connection, a worker must show that his employment was a substantial contributing factor to the disease or injury.
Summary: An assembly line worker squatted to perform his duties and first noticed pressure in his groin while squatting. He was diagnosed with a hernia and sought workers’ compensation benefits. The worker’s doctor opined that his employment likely significantly contributed to the hernia’s development, substantially accelerated the hernia’s progression, and aggravated the hernia’s severity. A doctor who conducted an independent medical review opined that the worker’s hernia was not connected to his work. The North Dakota Supreme Court held that he was not entitled to benefits.
The court found that evidence supported the administrative law judge’s finding that the worker’s employment was not a cause of his hernia or a substantial contributing factor. The ALJ found no specific incident occurred resulting in the worker’s injury. The worker did not relate his symptoms to his work activities when he first visited his doctor. Also, the doctor who performed the independent medical review noted that the worker’s obesity and history of smoking were factors that could have caused his hernia.
The court concluded that the worker failed to show that his work activities substantially contributed to the development of his hernia and failed to show his employment substantially accelerated the progression of his hernia or substantially worsened the severity of his hernia.