Carpal Tunnel Syndrome found to be non-compensable due to claimant's BMI and short duration of work
By J. Bradley Young, Harris Dowell Fisher & Young L.C
August 11, 2022 - On June 8, the Missouri Labor and Industrial Relations Commission affirmed an award of $0.00 rendered by the ALJ in the case of Nevois v. Meramec Industries. Since Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) claims are rarely found to be non-compensable, the basis for this award merits some analysis.
Claimant developed bilateral CTS which he alleged developed as a result of his job as a factory worker in a position that was hand-intensive. There was no dispute that claimant’s job was hand-intensive.
ANALYSIS OF THE AWARD
First, the ALJ and the Commission cite to Kelley v. Banta and Stude Const. Co. Inc., 1 S.W.3d 43 (Mo. App. E.D. 1999), as the basis for finding a CTS claim compensable under Missouri law:
“In order to support a finding of occupational disease, employee must provide substantial and competent evidence that he/she has contracted an occupationally induced disease rather than an ordinary disease of life. The inquiry involves two considerations: (1) whether there was an exposure to the disease which was greater than or different from that which affects the public generally, and (2) whether there was a recognizable link between the disease and some distinctive feature of the employee's job which is common to all jobs of that sort.”
Secondly, the Commission notes that the evidence indicated that claimant sought medical attention for his bilateral CTS after only 30 days of work. Even though the Commission found that claimant’s job was hand-intensive, the Commission further found that the employment was not “the prevailing factor” in causing the CTS because:
Claimant suffered from obesity and pre-diabetes;
Having an onset of symptoms after only 30 days indicates that the employment was not the prevailing factor in causing the CTS.
The Commission (by adopting the decision of the ALJ), notes that the medical experts were divided in this case and neither expert provided overwhelming evidence. In other words, while a tie in baseball goes to the runner, a tie under the Missouri Workers Compensation Act should go to the employer because the employee has the burden to produce the evidence.
When dealing with CTS claims, these are the factors that are most important to defending the claim:
Specifically identifying all of the claimant’s job duties and responsibilities so your expert can take those into consideration when determining causation;
Identifying exactly when the claimant’s subjective complaints first arose; and,
Identifying all non-work-related factors, like obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, etc., that could be causing or contributing to cause the CTS symptoms.
If you have any questions about this award or want to discuss how this award could apply to any claims you are currently handling, please feel free to call or email Brad Young, email@example.com, (636) 532-0300.