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The North Carolina Industrial Commission failed to fully address the cause of a worker’s aortic dissection, an appellate court held Tuesday.
In Holland v. Parrish Tire Co., a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the commission’s decision that a worker’s heart injury that occurred hours after he was hit in the chest with a tire was not compensable.
David Holland worked as a truck driver for Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Parrish Tire Co. Part of his duties included loading and unloading tires that weighed between 100 and 200 pounds each.
On Sept. 17, 2015, while unloading tires for a delivery, Mr. Holland said a tire toppled from the stack, hitting him in the chest, then fell to the floor, bouncing and striking him in the chest again. The owner of the tire store where the incident occurred testified that Mr. Holland turned gray and become uncharacteristically slow after being hit with the tire, prompting him to transport Mr. Holland to an urgent care center. The urgent care physician sent him to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with an aortic dissection and a collapsed lung and admitted to the intensive care unit. He underwent surgery and was told he would have a work restriction of being unable to lift more than 40 pounds indefinitely, and was diagnosed with major neurocognitive disorder due to the open-heart surgery, adjustment disorder and depression.
He was later rated permanently disabled and unable to work by a treating physician, and the tire company terminated Mr. Holland’s employment in February 2016. He filed for workers compensation, which was denied.
The deputy commissioner of the industrial commission held that Mr. Holland had suffered from a compensable injury. Parrish Tire appealed to the full commission, which held that Mr. Holland’s testimony was inconsistent and concluded that he failed to prove that he sustained a compensable injury.
Mr. Holland appealed, arguing that the commission erred in failing to consider medical testimony from five physicians, but rather made findings of fact only from his medical records. The appellate court reversed the commission’s decision, agreeing that the commission failed to consider testimony stating that aortic dissections were often caused by hypertension, but could also be caused by aneurysm, trauma, infection, inflammation and genetic predisposition. The physician that performed Mr. Holland’s open heart surgery testified that there was no indication that his dissection was the cause of an inflammatory body process or infection, and stated that it could have been caused by trauma. Another treating cardiologist said the “tire blow” could aggravate or in some way “contribute to the aortic dissection.”
Given these medical testimonies, the appellate court held that the commission made a reversable error by failing to make findings of fact on the cause of Mr. Holland’s aortic dissection, and had a duty to consider and evaluate the medical testimony regarding causation.
“The determination of whether plaintiff sustained an injury during the course of his employment should have taken into account the medical testimony regarding aortic dissections,” said the court.
Attorneys in the case did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A long-haul truck driver’s heart attack arose out of and in the scope of his employment, the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled.