IS YOUR DOCTOR’S TESTIMONY IN A PENNSYLVANIA WORKER’S COMPENSATION SUFFICIENT?
In the recent unreported Commonwealth Court case of Waste Management v. WCAB (Fessler), the Court found that a person who was injured at work via an infection from rat feces and urine was entitled to benefits. In Fessler, the injured worker worked on a garbage truck and noticed a rat and rat feces in the truck. He was later diagnosed with an infection caused by Capnocytophaga bacteria. It was undisputed that this bacteria comes from the waste of rats and mice, however, the Employer argued that there was no proof that that bacteria led to the claimant’s illness and subsequent disability while on the job. As a result of the infection, the injured worker required a double amputation.
The court found that for an injury to be compensable under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, the work injury must arise in the course and scope of employment. The Claimant’s burden of proof includes the requirement of establishing a causal relationship between the work-related accident and the ongoing disability, if any.
Pennsylvania Courts have recognized that “when the causal connection between the employment and the injury is not obvious, the claimant must present unequivocal medical evidence to establish that work injury and connection.” Rife v. Worker’s Compensation Appeal Board (Whitetail Ski Company) 812 A.2d 750 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2002) at Page 754. In Fessler the Court discussed what constituted proper medical testimony. They looked to the entirety of the medical testimony as a whole and noted that every word of the testimony does not have to be without reservation in order to be considered competent. They also found that a medical expert was permitted to express an opinion “on matters based in part upon reports of others which are not in evidence, but which the expert customarily relies on in the practice of his profession.” City of Philadelphia v. Worker’s Compensation Appeal Board (Kriebel) 29 A.3d 762 (Pa. 2001).
Fortunately for the injured worker, the Court held that the treating physician’s testimony was based on a full and thorough understanding of the claimant’s job and that the Claimant’s exposure to animal waste, was sufficient to establish that the claimant sustained a work injury.
If you have further questions about how to handle your Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Case, please call our office at 717-238-1657 to discuss and evaluate your workers’ compensation case with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.