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Hawaii’s Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the state’s Special Compensation Fund is not liable to pay permanent partial disability benefits if a worker’s preexisting condition did not cause a disability.
In Pave v. Production Processing, Inc., the court took up a consolidated pair of appeals involving workers who were injured on the job and sought partial benefits from the trust fund.
The fund is funded annually through levies paid by workers compensation insurers and kicks in should an employer fail to pay workers comp benefits to injured employees.
In its ruling, the appeals court determined that in each of the two cases, there was no evidence that the injured workers’ asymptomatic preexisting conditions had caused a disability before their respective work accidents, and that Hawaii’s Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board was wrong to apportion liability for the permanent partial disability benefits to the fund.
The court wrote that in each of the cases, at least one doctor apportioned causation of post-work-accident disability to a preexisting condition, but no evidence existed that the preexisting conditions caused any pre-accident loss or impairment of physical or mental function.
In the first case, Production Processing Inc. claimed apportionment with the fund in connection a worker’s neck injury. The second case involved Altres Inc. and a worker’s knee injury.
The fund appealed both cases, challenging the apportionment of liability.