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Worker's blindness not compensable despite eye injury on the job


A Texas worker who suffered an eye injury on the job isn't entitled to workers compensation benefits for vision loss associated with his pre-existing glaucoma, a Texas appellate court has ruled.

Joe Ballard was delivering auto parts for driver staffing firm TransForce Inc. when a customer became angry and hit him in the left eye with a box, court records show.

Alexandria, Virginia-based TransForce and its workers comp insurer, Arch Insurance Co., agreed that Mr. Ballard's eye injury was work-related and paid for his medical treatment, according to records.

Mr. Ballard then alleged that his occupational injury aggravated his pre-existing glaucoma, causing the intraocular pressure to spike in his left eye and leading to vision loss, records show.

TransForce and Arch insurance argued that Mr. Ballard's vision loss resulted from his glaucoma, not from his occupational injury, according to records. While several doctors said Mr. Ballard's injury did not aggravate his pre-existing glaucoma to cause blindness, no doctor declared that the trauma “probably” aggravated his condition, records show.

A hearing officer with Texas' Division of Workers' Compensation agreed, leading Mr. Ballard to appeal.

When the division's appeals panel didn't issue a decision, the hearing officer's ruling became final, records show.

Mr. Ballard then sought review in the Harris County District Court in Houston which also sided with the hearing officer. And on Thursday, Texas' 14th Court of Appeals in Houston affirmed the lower court's judgment.

While the aggravation of a pre-existing condition is considered compensable, “a claimant need not provide expert testimony, but a claimant must have evidence showing a reasonable medical probability that the compensable injury contributed to, or probably contributed to, the aggravation of the pre-existing condition,” the ruling states.