Cornavirus and Workers' Compensation in Virginia - Part 4: Presumption Claims and the Unknown Effects of Coronavirus

SPECIAL EDITION

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

At this point, the full impact of the coronavirus is unknown.  The American College of Cardiology’s website states that “the specific effects of COVID-19 on the cardiovascular system remain unclear, although there have been reports of acute cardiac injury, hypotension, tachycardia, and a high proportion of concomitant cardiovascular disease in infected individuals…we’re all

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McCandlish Holton's Response to COVID-19

McCandlish Holton wishes to assure our clients and the community that we are working to maintain full operations during the current health crisis. We are carefully following the regional and national updates on the spread and impact of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) to protect our employees, clients, and community.

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

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

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Cornavirus and Workers' Compensation in Virginia - Part 2: Similarities with a Tuberculosis Case

SPECIAL EDITION

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

The Court of Appeals of Virginia considered whether a claimant’s tuberculosis was a compensable ordinary disease of life. Will the Court’s analysis be instructive in evaluating coronavirus claims that will inevitably be filed in the coming months?

In Lindenfeld v. City of Richmond Sheriff’s Office, 25 Va. App 775 (1997), the Court of Appeals of Virginia considered whether a claimant’s tuberculosis was a compensable ordinary disease of life and the Court’s analysis may be instructive in evaluating the coronavirus claims that will inevitably be filed in the coming months.  Tuberculosis spreads from person to person through microscopic droplets released into the air when a person with active tuberculosis coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits, laughs, or sings.[1]  Much like tuberculosis, the World Health Organization has suggested that coronavirus can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when an infected person coughs or exhales.[2] 

The claimant in Lindenfeld, was a deputy sheriff in a jail containing inmates with active and

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Cornavirus and Workers' Compensation in Virginia - Part I: A ‘Disease’

SPECIAL EDITION

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

Under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) will likely be treated as a “disease.”  In Virginia, a disease may be compensable under the Act if it is an occupational disease or an ordinary disease of life. 

Necessity of a Diagnosis

Regardless of whether coronavirus is pursued as either an occupational disease or an ordinary disease of life, the claimant must first prove that they are actually suffering from a “disease” and will likely need to establish this with a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus to successfully meet their burden of proof.  Mere exposure or symptoms consistent with coronavirus, absent a diagnosis, will not likely be enough.  However, this does not

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Court of Appeals Affirms Willful Misconduct Defense in Seat Belt Case

WORKERS COMPENSATION CASE WATCH

In Mizelle v. Holiday Ice, Inc., claimant got into the employer’s truck to make a delivery and started driving without putting his seat belt on.  He knew the law required him to wear a seat belt but admitted that he did not put it on and intended to put it on later during the trip.  Within five minutes of starting the trip he lost control of the truck and was injured when he was ejected from it during the crash.

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Sole Stockholder Not Employee Under VA Workers’ Compensation Act

WORKERS COMPENSATION CASE WATCH

The claimant was injured at the auto glass company he owns.   The business had a workers’ compensation insurance policy but the insurer argued that the claimant was not an employee as defined by the Act so he was not subject to the policy’s coverage.

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Observed? Preserve, Preserve, Preserve.

We are surrounded by recording devices: smart phones, dashboard cameras, recording doorbells, smart home devices, surveillance cameras, and drones. Chances are that if an accident happened, one of these devices captured it. Video of an employee’s accident can be a key piece of evidence, but we cannot use that evidence if it was erased.

Failing to preserve video evidence is called ‘‘ spoliation .’’ Preserving evidence is an important part of defending a workers’ compensation claim. In 2019, a statute was enacted governing spoliation. It states that

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Climbing Fall Not in the Course Of the Employment

WORKERS COMPENSATION CASE WATCH

In Morres v. Earth Treks Crystal City Climb, the claimant worked at a recreational climbing gym.  The employer required employees to clock in before their shifts and prohibited employees from performing personal climbs while on the clock.  Before clocking in for her shift, the claimant did a warm-up climb, which she said was in preparation for performing rope maintenance.  She climbed with another co-worker, who was not scheduled to work that day.  During her warm-up climb, she took a practice fall.  She was injured in the fall.

The Deputy Commissioner found that the claimant was engaged in personal, recreational rock-climbing and was not in the course of her employment when the injury occurred.  On Review, the full Commission agreed, stating “…we do not find whatever ephemeral benefit the employer might receive from the claimant sharpening her climbing skills sufficient to bring

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Telehealth Treatment Did Not Affect Weight Given to Doctor's Opinion

WORKERS COMPENSATION CASE WATCH

On January 6, 2020, the Commission briefly addressed the issue of telemedicine in the treating physician relationship.  In Carter v. Mondelez International, the claimant was injured in a motor vehicle accident and was treating with a psychologist for PTSD

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