The Law

Workers’ Comp Coverage Must Be Paid for Bathroom Injury

Court must decide whether worker's pain flare-up is related to a four-year-old work injury or a pre-existing condition.
By: | August 30, 2018 • 2 min read

Kellie Farricker, an employee of the Bravo Brio Restaurant Group, sustained work-related injuries to the head, neck and back in March 2009. She was cleared for maximum medical improvement by 2012.

One day in April 2016, Farricker felt a sharp, sudden onset of pain in her lower back while on the toilet. She went to the ER, presenting with continued pain and numbness in her legs. After an exam and MRI, the doctor concluded that Farricker had a herniated lumbar disc, which would require immediate surgery.

Farricker applied for temporary total disability (TTD), stating the herniated disc was a result of her previous injuries from 2009. Bravo Brio denied the claim because the herniated disc came seven years after her original injuries.

The restaurant submitted its own physician assessment, which concluded that Farricker’s discs were degenerating before the bathroom injury. He said surgery and treatment did not fall under the allowed conditions of the initial claim.

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A district hearing court authorized both the surgery and TTD, stating the injury was an exacerbation of her pre-existing condition. Bravo Brio appealed, but a staff hearing officer sided again with Farricker.

The restaurant filed for a writ of mandamus relief, asking the commission to issue a new order denying medical treatment. It argued Farricker’s was an intervening injury, meaning it developed after and apart from the original workers’ comp injuries. But the commission did not agree.

Stephanie Bisca, Ohio’s court of appeals magistrate, oversaw the final ruling. She wrote in her opinion that “the commission did not abuse its discretion in finding that [Farricker] here did not sustain an intervening injury when she wiped herself after utilizing the bathroom facilities. This is an ordinary, everyday event which, as a general rule, does not cause any injury.”

She denied Bravo Brio’s request for writ of mandamus.

Scorecard: Kellie Farricker’s herniated disc is an extension of her original workers’ comp claim. Her employer, Bravo Brio, will need to cover temporary total disability costs.

Takeaway: In workers’ comp, reinjury can extend claims well beyond initial injury. Best practice is to invest in employee wellness and other like programs or else face a growing compensation bill.

Autumn Heisler is the digital producer and a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]