Hutchings v. Amerigas Propane

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Workers Compensation
  • Date Filed: 12-23-2015
  • Case #: A151719
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ortega, P.J. for the Court; DeVore, J.; & Garrett, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under ORS 656.005(25)(c), a worker’s preexisting condition makes him “susceptible” to injury if the condition increases the likelihood that the affected body part will be injured by some other action or process but does not actively contribute to damaging the body part.

Hutchings (Claimant) appealed a Workers’ Compensation Board (Board) order that upheld Amerigas Propane’s (Employer) “combined condition” denial of Claimant’s workers’ compensation claim. Where an otherwise compensable injury combines with a “preexisting condition” defined under 656.005(24)(a) to cause or prolong disability or the need for treatment, the resulting “combined condition” is compensable only when the preexisting condition is not the major cause of the disability or need for treatment. On appeal, Claimant asserts that the spinal fusion surgery to correct his spinal spondylosis was merely a condition that rendered Claimant more susceptible to injury, and thus under ORS 656.005(25)(c) is not a preexisting condition that the Board could consider as “contribut[ing] to disability or need for treatment.” Under ORS 656.005(25)(c) “a condition merely renders a worker more susceptible to injury if the condition increases the likelihood that the affected body part will be injured by some other action or process but does not actively contribute to damaging the body part.” Given that understanding of “susceptible” in ORS 656.005(25)(c), the Court found that the evidence in the record did not support the Board’s conclusion that Claimant’s surgery was the major cause of his disability. Reversed and remanded.

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