Workers’ compensation can be a very state-specific part of the law since it is generally a state-run system, which means we typically only hear about cases that take place within our own state. Every so often, however, a case from another jurisdiction is interesting enough that we do hear about it. The most recent workers’ compensation case to make national headlines was PS2 LLC v. Childers, 910 N.E.2d 809 (Ind. App. 2009) from the State of Indiana.
Adam Childers was 25 years-old and worked as a cook at a Boston’s Gourmet Pizza in March 2007 when he sustained an injury to his back when he struck a freezer door. Prior to the accident, Childers weighed 340 pounds. As a result of the injury, Childers’ doctors said he needed surgery to ease his severe pain, but the operation would do him no good unless he first had surgery to reduce his weight, which rose to 380 pounds after the accident.
The employer, Boston's Gourmet Pizza, argued it should not have to pay for the weight loss surgery because Childers' weight was a pre-existing condition. The Indiana Workers' Compensation Board and the Court of Appeals of Indiana, however, ruled the company had to pay for the surgery because Childers’ weight and the accident created a single and continuous injury.
While we have seen employers ordered to pay for certain pre-surgery treatments, none have made headlines the way Mr. Childers’ weight-loss surgery did. Despite the many articles either in support or opposition to the position taken by the Indiana court, the Childers case is a good reminder that employers take their employees as they find them, and sometimes even an innocuous injury can lead to long-term, unanticipated costs.