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The Missouri High Court determines disability based on pre-existing conditions, not work injury



The Missouri Supreme Court ruled Monday that a former manufacturing worker’s disability is likely the result of pre-existing conditions and not a workplace injury, ruling that he was ineligible for permanent disability under the state’s other injury fund.

Robert March injured his hands through repetitive motion while working as a meat cutter for 15 years; He later suffered extremity injuries while working in manufacturing, making metal electrical boxes that ranged in weight from 10 to 500 pounds, according to documents in Robert March v. Treasurer of the State of Missouri – Custodian of the Second Claim Fund, filed in Jefferson City.

Court records state that “(b) Before the plaintiff suffered the primary injuries underlying his compensation claim, he endured other health problems, including: morbid obesity, thyroid problems, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, a transient ischemic attack, atrial fibrillation, asthma, a second left rotator cuff tear laceration and a left leg tear. Plaintiff̵

7;s left leg injury, sustained during a hunting trip, eventually required treatment for stasis ulcers, affected his ability to stand, and created blood flow problems. The most significant of Plaintiff’s pre-existing medical conditions were his bilateral lower extremity conditions, for which he was diagnosed in 2005 with edema and pain radiating down both legs into his ankles, secondary to morbid obesity and obesity-related venous varices.

When he applied for permanent and total disability benefits from the state’s Second Injury Fund, which covers injuries sustained over several years of employment, his claim was rejected on the basis that he could not prove that his disability had been caused by workplace injuries. An administrative law judge issued an order denying the benefits, finding that Mr. March’s “existing disabilities, “primarily the lower extremity condition, were actively being treated and were disabling at the time of (his) work-related (claim), which included inoperable bilateral carpal tunnel injuries.”

The State Industrial Commission agreed, as did the state Supreme Court, which held that “the Commission appropriately found that it was not convinced that the combination of his prior disability and his primary injuries entitled him to PTD benefits as it was ‘just as likely’ that his prior disability alone . left him permanently and totally disabled.”


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