Cornavirus and Workers' Compensation in Virginia - Part 3: First Responder Presumption Cases

Police car

SPECIAL EDITION

Read the full 4-part Workers’ Comp and COVID-19 Update.

Va. Code §65.2-402 provides first responders with a presumption that respiratory and heart diseases, as well as certain other medical conditions, are compensable.  If the Commission analyzes a coronavirus claim under this code, could it find in the claimant’s favor?

Va. Code §65.2-402 provides first responders with a presumption that respiratory and heart diseases, as well as certain other medical conditions, are compensable.  To defeat the claim, the defendants must show that the claimant’s disease was not caused by the employment and that a non-work-related cause of the disease existed.  If the Commission analyzes a coronavirus claim under Va. Code §65.2-402, it may well find in the claimant’s favor, depending upon how the coronavirus is ultimately found to effect other health conditions.   

A Claim Involving Virally Induced Heart Disease in a Police Officer

The claimant in Town of Purcellville Police v. Bromser-Kloeden, 35 Va. App. 252 (2001) was a police officer seeking workers’ compensation benefits for virally induced heart disease.  The defendants argued that the claimant’s condition did not qualify as an occupational disease because the virus leading to claimant’s heart disease was “community acquired.”  The Court found that the claimant’s work as a police officer placed him in greater contact with the public and their various bodily fluids and increased the overall stress in his life, rendering him more susceptible to all viruses, and increasing his risk of contracting the type of “community acquired” virus which caused his heart condition.  

Although the cause of the claimant’s heart disease was a virus that the general public was exposed to, the Court held that, as a police officer, the claimant was entitled to a presumption that his heart disease was a compensable occupational disease and the defendants failed to rebut that presumption. 

Part 1 - A ‘Disease’

Part 2 - Similarities with a Tuberculosis Case

Part 4 -

Presumption Claims and the Unknown Effects of Coronavirus

For the latest on presumption in Virginia, read our summary of what you must know about the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee's 2019 report about the Virginia Workers' Compensation system with a special focus on disease presumption, published on December 16, 2019.

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