Was an EMT’s injury idiopathic when she stood up from her desk?

The Georgia Court of Appeals evaluated a case this summer titled Chambers v. Monroe County Board of Commissioners that involved an injury the Employer argued was “idiopathic” (i.e., that it could have happened anywhere, so it shouldn’t be covered by workers’ compensation insurance).  After the claimant won at the initial hearing, she was overturned at the next two appellate levels.  The GA Court of Appeals agreed with the appellate decision of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation–that the injury was idiopathic.

Ms. Chambers (an EMT and firefighter) hurt her knee while getting up from her seat behind a desk that her supervisor needed to use; he asked her to get up, and when she did, her knee gave a “pop” sound and was injured.  Before she got up, she was filling out paperwork and watching television at the fire station after returning from a call.  Her knee required a surgery and will eventually need a replacement surgery.

The Court of Appeals made its opinion fairly clear in the decision (linked above) that when evaluating cases mainly determined by the facts, as is an idiopathic injury case, it will defer to the findings of the State Board, which, in addition to including the Administrative Law Judge, includes the 3-judge “full Board” appellate division, even though these judges will not have observed the claimant’s and witnesses’ testimony in person, but will have access to the transcript and records admitted into evidence instead.  Personally, I’d like to see more deference given to the hearing judge’s opinion than the appellate division’s, but I don’t get to make such rules.

In the future, if you’re going to hurt your knee while getting up from your desk at work, make sure you strike your knee on the desk.  Then, it’ll be work-related under the “positional risk doctrine,” at least!

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