Bowker v. NFI North, Inc.
April 13, 2016
CategoriesLegal Causation Pre-Existing Injury
Pre-Existing Back Aggravation Causation IME§312 §201(4) Bryant v. Masters Machine
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
The WCB Appellate Division vacated a decree which had denied benefits to an employee with a pre-existing back condition that was aggravated by a minor lifting event at work.
Judge Greene found that Bowker had a long-standing symptomatic low back condition that he aggravated at work when lifting a box weighing 8 to 10 pounds. In spite of a §312 IME finding the injury to be a significant medical aggravation resulting in surgery, Judge Greene found no "legal causation," because Bowker's work activity posed no more risk of re-injury than his personal activities (including shoveling snow and helping a friend move), and because under §201 (4) the aggravation did not contribute to his disability in a significant manner.
The panel found that Judge Greene had “applied an incorrect legal standard,” citing Bryant v. Masters Machine, a seminal 1982 Law Court decision on legal causation. The Bowker panel disagreed with Judge Greene’s finding and stated that lifting a box and putting into the back of a car elevated the risk of injury above the risk of injury present in the average person’s non-working life. Because it was done during the course of his work duties and increased his disability, the panel found it was therefore the legal cause of his incapacity.