A Missouri appellate court has overruled the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission on a workers’ compensation case that we covered earlier in our blog.
Worker Denied Compensation for Hearing Loss
The case involves an airline baggage handler who suffered several successive back injuries. He also had hearing loss from being near so many planes and loud conveyor belts.
Nevertheless, the administrative law judge denied workers’ compensation from the Second Injury Fund for the back injuries. The judge never mentioned the hearing loss claim in the decision.
The Commission then stretched for a way to rubber stamp the judge’s ruling and extend it to the hearing loss claim. The Commission said that the hearing loss was an occupational disease, and that it was therefore time barred because it was filed late. In doing so, the Commission acknowledged that a Missouri Court of Appeals decision explicitly said that it was the date of the injury, not the filing that mattered.
Appeals Court Vigorously Overturns Decision
Yesterday, the eastern district of the Missouri Court of Appeals overturned the part of the Commission’s ruling that dealt with the worker’s hearing loss. The court’s measured opinion, though, hides how little it thinks of the Commission’s decision.
In overturning the Commission’s denial of compensation for the worker’s hearing loss, the court did not even mention the issue of whether the hearing loss claim was time barred. Instead, the court thought so little of it that it went straight into the worker’s claim that there was insufficient evidence to support the Commission’s decision.
Claims that there was insufficient evidence to support a decision are generally doomed to failure. Appellate courts look for reasons to find sufficient evidence for the lower court’s ruling, and generally do so.
That is not what happened in this case, though.
The appellate court saw that the Commission had determined that the hearing loss had not combined with his back injuries to result in permanent total disability. According to the Commission, if the worker “is permanently and totally disabled, it is based on” his back injuries, not his hearing loss.
But the Commission then found that the worker’s back injuries did not make him permanently and totally disabled. Which should have meant that the Commission would take the hearing loss into account. But it did not.
Additionally, the court found that the Commission misrepresented an expert witness’ testimony to support its decision to deny recovery. According to the Commission, one doctor “did not include hearing loss in his analysis.” The Commission relied on this omission as a sign that the worker did not have hearing loss, and denied recovery. However, the court looked at the testimony and found that the doctor had actually deferred to another doctor’s determination that there was hearing loss. In fact, the first doctor explicitly named hearing loss as a contributor to the worker’s disability in his testimony.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
With the Commission reaching so far to deny coverage for workplace injuries, it is more important than ever to have a workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer working on your behalf. Call the lawyers at the Smith Law Office at (816) 875-9373 or contact them online if you have been hurt in the workplace in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, or the rest of western Missouri.