Worker’s Fall Was Not Idiopathic, in Spite of Opinion Offered by IME

In an unpublished decision, an Arizona appellate court found that the evidence in the record supported an ALJ’s award of workers’ compensation benefits to an office worker who sustained a compound fracture of her left forearm when, as she was preparing to leave for the day, the office worker fell to the floor near her desk at her employer’s premises [Hilton Worldwide v. Industrial Comm’n of Ariz., 2017 Ariz. App. Unpub. LEXIS 258 (Mar. 9, 2017)]. Noting that the ALJ was the sole judge of witness credibility, and that there was a deep conflict regarding the incident, the court held the evidence supported a finding that the worker had not suffered an idiopathic fall.

Background

A video provided a partial view of the accident. It showed the worker preparing to leave for the day. She moved her own chair and another near her desk. She repeatedly knelt to pick up items of trash near the chairs and she deposited them in a trash can. As she returned to her desk, she appeared to lose her balance and fell. Two of the employer’s safety officials testified that the claimant told them she had felt dizzy prior to her fall. Another worker testified that as they waited for ER personnel to arrive, the claimant said she had not been dizzy at all. The claimant acknowledged that she had a history of falls, but she said she fell when her foot stuck to masking tape that had been used to repair a tear in the carpet near her desk.

An independent medical examiner testified that the worker told him that she was not dizzy or lightheaded at the time she fell, but that this statement was inconsistent with hospital records that indicated the claimant became lightheaded when she got up from tying her shoes. The IME concluded the claimant had sustained transient dizziness, a common occurrence when standing up, which caused her fall.

Idiopathic Falls Generally Are Noncompensable

Citing Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 9.01[1], the court noted that the general rule is that the effects of an idiopathic fall are noncompensable unless “the employment places the employee in a position increasing the dangerous effects of such a fall, such as on a height, near machinery or sharp corners, or in a moving vehicle.”

WCJ’s Findings Not “Wholly Unreasonable”

The court stressed that the ALJ was the sole judge of witness credibility. The employer had failed to show that the ALJ’s resolution of the conflicting evidence was “wholly unreasonable.” The IME based his opinion on facts that had been rejected by the WCJ and such rejection was supported by the evidence of record. The court would not disturb the ALJ’s conclusion unless it was not supported by any reasonable theory of the evidence. Such was not the case here.

This entry was posted in Case comment and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.