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An Idaho man who failed to prove his occupational injuries were the “predominant” cause of his depression is not entitled to benefits for psychological care, the state Supreme Court has ruled.
Joseph Gerdon, who worked for Jerome, Idaho-based Con Paulos Inc., sustained compensable injuries in a June 2008 motor vehicle crash, court records show.
Mr. Gerdon, whose coworker was driving the vehicle at the time, suffered a left ankle fracture, complex regional pain syndrome, a disk herniation, bilateral osteoarthritis, and temporary thoracic spine pain, according to records.
In July 2014, he requested a hearing to determine whether he was also entitled to workers compensation benefits for a psychological injury, records show.
Both sides presented expert medical testimony, but a referee with the Idaho Industrial Commission in September 2014 found the expert presented by Con Paulos to be more credible, according to records. The commission then adopted the referee's decision, ruling that Mr. Gerdon failed to prove he was entitled to additional psychological care.
Though “it was undisputed that he was suffering from depression and that the industrial accident was a cause of the depression,” Idaho's workers comp law requires that an occupational injury be the “predominant cause as compared to all other causes combined” to claim benefits for psychological injuries.
Mr. Gerdon appealed to the state Supreme Court, which affirmed the commission's decision on May 27.
The physician who testified on behalf of Mr. Gerdon said, “I think there's a direct link between his work injury and his psychological situation … I think that his depression and anxiety are related to his injury, more probably than not.”
Meanwhile, the physician who testified on behalf of Con Paulos “explained that due to Mr. Gerdon's personality style, he had limited coping skills and, as a result, had a psychological reaction that was out of proportion to the stimulus.”
The Idaho Supreme Court ruled 3-2.
The dissent wrote that, “despite its claim to the contrary, the commission improperly disregarded the positive, uncontradicted testimony of Gerdon's family members and friends who testified as to his mental condition prior to the accident.”
Mr. Gerdon's “mother, wife, and friends all testified that (he) was an optimistic, fun-loving person with no history of anger before his industrial accident.”
The dissent argued that testimony “filled a gaping hole” in Con Paulos' physician's “knowledge of Gerdon's pre-accident history, providing direct, undisputed, and persuasive evidence of Gerdon's pre- and post-accident mental condition. This is not a situation where the testimony was at such odds that you had to believe either one side or the other, but not both.”