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Article: Ninth Circuit decision highlights the value of medical evidence in rebutting section 20(a) presumption in aggravating injury case
News & Insights 30 March 2020
If an employee's pre-existing condition is aggravated or accelerated by work conditions, the employer can be liable for the claimant's entire disability, not just the aggravated or accelerated portion.
Under the United States’ statutory compensation law for injured shipyard employees (the LHWCA), these employees enjoy a presumption that an injury is work-related if they show harm and that workplace conditions could have caused, aggravated, or accelerated the harm. If an employee's pre-existing condition is aggravated or accelerated by work conditions, the employer can be liable for the claimant's entire disability, not just the aggravated or accelerated portion.
Employers have an opportunity to rebut the presumption with evidence that the harm was not work-related.
In this case, the employer's medical expert's report concluded that the work-related aggravation had not caused the claimant's disability. The Benefits Review Board determined the medical evidence rebutted the presumption of causation and that instead the claimant's harm was caused by natural progression of the underlying condition. The Ninth Circuit affirmed.
In a comprehensive summary of the case written for the club by Cox Wootton Lener Griffin & Hansen LLP, Ms Jamie Madriaga discusses the court's opinion. This can be found in the attachment on this page.