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Funeral director’s carpal tunnel not compensable


A funeral director failed to show that his carpal tunnel was related to his employment, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia held on Friday.

In Davidson v. Blue Ridge Crematory, in a 3-2 decision, the appellate court affirmed the West Virginia Workers Compensation Board of Review’s dismissal of the man’s claim for workers compensation, finding that external health factors — not the duties of his job — led to his injury.

James Davidson worked as an apprentice funeral director and embalmer at Blue Ridge Funeral Home Memorial Gardens & Crematory in Beckley, West Virginia. His job duties include suturing, dressing, lifting and removing bodies, completing paperwork and logging data into the computer.

In February 2017, about a year after his employment began, he reported experiencing numbness and pain in his hands and was diagnosed with bilateral carpel tunnel syndrome. His physician recommended he wear braces at night and undergo surgery. Mr. Davidson said the condition occurred as a result of the repetitive movements in his job duties and sought workers compensation. He had previously been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease and low testosterone.

A claims administrator rejected his claim, but the Workers Compensation Office of Judges reversed the decision, holding that his carpal tunnel was compensable. The West Virginia Workers Compensation Board of Review reversed and vacated the decision, holding that the evidence failed to demonstrate that Mr. Davidson’s employment duties had a relationship to his carpal tunnel. Mr. Davidson appealed, but the appellate court affirmed the board’s decision.  

The court held that the board of review did not err in giving weight to the independent medical evaluator’s conclusion that Mr. Davidson’s carpel tunnel was not related to his occupational activities because his activities did not involve the degree of repetition and force required to cause carpal tunnel. The doctor also opined that Mr. Davidson’s obesity and hypothyroidism were important risk factors in the development of his disease, and the court found that the board’s reliance on the evidentiary record was not erroneous and affirmed the decision.

 The dissenting judges did not write an opinion.






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