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Officer with hypertension denied cover for secondary diagnosis


A workers compensation claim filed by a law enforcement officer with a history of hypertension was denied compensability, a Florida appeals court ruled Wednesday.

As a teenager, Joshua Holcombe underwent a liver transplant that required he take anti-rejection medications for the next 15 years. Mr. Holcombe developed secondary hypertension as a side effect of the medications, which later resolved after suspending treatment. He was hired as a law enforcement officer by the City of Naples several years later, and in the years following, was diagnosed with essential hypertension, according to documents in Joshua Holcombe v. City of Naples, filed in the District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District, in Tallahassee.

Upon his hiring, Mr. Holcombe underwent a pre-employment physical examination that required he complete a self-report medical history questionnaire. He responded “yes” to a question regarding any history of high blood pressure. As part of the physical, the examiner reviewed a note from his primary care physician advising that his hypertension had returned to normal upon cessation of the medications, documents state.

When Mr. Holcombe was diagnosed with essential hypertension several years into his service, he filed a workers compensation claim. He was denied compensability under the presumption the pre-employment physical examination contained documented evidence of hypertension.

He filed a Petition for Benefits requesting compensability of “arterial and cardiovascular hypertension,” and was again denied compensability by the Judge of Compensation Claims on the same grounds that evidence of pre-existing hypertension precluded his reliance on the presumption.

On appeal, the court agreed that evidence of secondary hypertension on Mr. Holcombe’s PEP precludes his use of the presumption of occupational causation for essential hypertension, and affirmed the JCC ruling.





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