Kansas Court of Appeals – Civil
Statutory Interpretation; Workers Compensation
Buchanan v. JM Staffing
Workers Compensation – Reversed and Remanded
No. 114,502 – August 26, 2016
FACTS: JM secured Buchanan a position working at a factory. While on the job, Buchanan tripped and severely fractured her ankle. Buchanan's ankle was slow to heal after surgery, so the treating physician recommended physical therapy. Records show that Buchanan went through physical therapy for a year after her accident. Eventually, the treating physician determined that Buchanan would be left with permanent stiffness and loss of range of motion, and that these issues would cause Buchanan to walk with a limp. By the time she was examined by her expert witness, Buchanan complained of both hip and back pain. Buchanan's expert testified that this pain was a result of Buchanan walking with a limp, and that it would not improve as long as Buchanan continued to limp. JM's expert testified that Buchanan was able to work, as long as standing and walking were limited to 33% of her day. The ALJ relied on JM's expert's testimony when finding that Buchanan's hip and back injuries weren't compensable because her work accident was not the prevailing factor of the injury. A majority of the Board of Appeals affirmed this finding. Buchanan appeals.
ISSUE: Whether the "secondary-injury" rule survived the 2011 statutory amendments to the Workers Compensation code
HELD: Buchanan's ankle injury was undisputedly a compensable injury. Prior case law suggests that nothing about the 2011 amendments altered the secondary-injury rule. But after the amendments, all injuries, including secondary injuries, must be caused primarily by the work accident. In this case, the prevailing evidence proves that Buchanan's hip and back injuries were a result of her limping, which was a result of her ankle injury.
STATUTE: K.S.A. 2015 Supp. 44-508(f)(2)(B), -508(g), -556(a), 77-621(c)(4), -621(c)(7), -621(d)