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Kentucky court upholds workers comp for Wal-Mart employee

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FRANKFORT, Ky.—Wal-Mart Stores Inc. must provide workers compensation benefits to an employee who also received a $900,000 civil award from two third parties, the Kentucky Court of Appeals has ruled.

The Friday decision in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. vs. Donald Greg Wells stems from carbon monoxide exposure injuries Mr. Wells suffered in 2005 while working in a freezer at a Wal-Mart distribution center.

Mr. Wells argued that carbon monoxide resulted from generators and welding machinery that two contractors used while renovating the nonventilated freezer, court records state.

He simultaneously pursued a workers comp claim against his employer and a civil action against the contractors. After receiving a $900,000 award in the civil action, Wal-Mart argued that Mr. Wells should be allowed to recover either from the workers comp claim or the civil action, not both.

An administrative law judge, backed by the Kentucky Workers' Compensation Board, disagreed. The judge awarded Mr. Wells nearly $441,000 in income and medical bills.

The state appellate court ruled that Wal-Mart's argument was without merit and the law judge's ruling complied with statutory and case law. The appellate court also agreed with the judge that Wal-Mart was entitled to a $126,811 subrogation credit because Kentucky law allows the legal expense an employee incurs in a civil action to e deducted from an insurer's or employer's payment of benefits, meaning Wal-Mart owes Mr. Wells about $317,000.