Granados v. Comcast Corporation and Liberty Mutual Insurance Corporation
W.C. No. 4-704-768, ICAO
This case, out of our office and tried by Ms. Tiffany Scully Kinder, addresses the mental impairment statute.
Claimant, a residential cable installer, alleged he smelled cat urine at a customer’s residence on March 5, 2007. Claimant began coughing and experienced hoarseness after leaving the residence. He was diagnosed with various conditions, including vocal cord dysfunction syndrome (“VCDS”). The Administrative Law Judge found Claimant failed to prove he suffered a psychological traumatic event that is generally outside of a workers’ usual experience and would evoke significant symptoms of distress in a worker in similar circumstances. The ALJ denied and dismissed the action.
Claimant appealed and argued the ALJ erred in determining he was required to show exposure to the cat urine caused a psychological condition resulting in a mental-physical claim. Claimant argued his claim was one in which he experienced physical disability due to a physical exposure at work. The Court disagreed and found Claimant’s claim was subject to the impairment statute and his claim was mental-physical in nature. The Court noted such a determination was factual in nature and as there was substantial evidence on the record to contradict Claimant’s allegation the exposure to cat urine directly caused any physical injury to the vocal cords or other upper respiratory tissue, the Court affirmed the ALJ’s findings that Claimant was required to prove the odor of cat urine caused mental impairment resulting in VCDS.
What this means for you: A claimant will often attempt to classify his physical conditions due to mental impairment as a physical industrial injury to avoid the higher standard of proof as set forth in the Workers’ Compensation Act Impairment Statute. However, so long as there is substantial factual evidence to negate claimant’s allegation of physical disability due to physical exposure at work, the Impairment Statute will apply.