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Virginia Police Officer Denied Employees’ Compensation Regardless of Statutory Presumption

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A Virginia police officer has been denied staff’ compensation advantages for a coronary heart situation regardless of the state regulation that his situation is presumed to be work-related.

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The Virginia Employees’ Compensation Fee (VWCC) has dominated that the officer’s public college employer, Previous Dominion College, efficiently rebutted the statutory presumption with proof that the officer was born with the illness and thus it was outdoors the course of his employment.

In consequence, John Thomson has been denied medical advantages and short-term whole incapacity for his atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT)1 and supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).

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On the enchantment by Previous Dominion, the VWCC reversed a deputy commissioner’s September 2023 ruling that the college did not convincingly rebut the office presumption and awarded staff’ compensation advantages to Thomson. However the three members of the VWCC felt in a different way, convincing that the proof from Thomson’s physician cited by Previous Dominion in difficult the award was sturdy sufficient to rebut the presumption.

Virginia’s staff’ compensation code states partially with respect to state police officer that “hypertension or coronary heart illness inflicting the loss of life of, or any well being situation or impairment leading to whole or partial incapacity of any of the next individuals who’ve accomplished 5 years of service of their place as . . . shall be presumed to be occupational ailments, suffered within the line of obligation, which might be coated by this title until such presumption is overcome by a preponderance of competent proof on the contrary.”

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Case Background

On this case, there was no dispute that the officer had been identified with AVNRT and that he was entitled to the statutory presumption within the code. The one query was whether or not the employer Previous Dominion overcame the presumption. To beat the presumption, the employer should present, by a preponderance of the proof, each that the claimant’s illness was not attributable to his employment, and there was a non-work-related reason for the illness, in accordance with the check set forth in a 1999 Virginia Supreme Courtroom opinion (Bass v. Metropolis of Richmond Police Division).

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In February 2022, whereas arresting a person who was resisting arrest, Thomson began feeling chest ache and his coronary heart beating quick in a way he had not beforehand skilled. Whereas taking the arrestee to reserving, his respiration grew to become extra labored, his chest ache grew to become extra pronounced, and he felt he would cross out. He went to the emergency division. Thomson denied any prior cardiac historical past or historical past of SVT. A heart specialist identified him with AVNRT and carried out an SVT ablation.

After discharge from the hospital, Thomson continued to comply with up with the identical heart specialist. On the request of Previous Dominion, the heart specialist accomplished a questionnaire by which he answered sure to the query: “Do you agree that AVNRT is a pre-existing situation that Mr. Thomson was born with, which grew to become symptomatic in February 2022?” He didn’t elaborate past checking the “sure” field.

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In ruling on the case, a deputy staff’ compensation commissioner famous that whereas the physician opined that Thomson’s AVNRT was a pre-existing situation that was not attributable to his employment, the physician provided no rationalization for this conclusory assertion. Whereas the opinion is uncontradicted by any medical proof of report, it was additionally inadequate to rebut the presumption on this case, the deputy commissioner dominated in awarding advantages to Thomson.

However upon evaluation of that deputy’s opinion, the three-member VWCC mentioned the heart specialist’s opinion was entitled “nice weight” since he had been Thomson’s treating heart specialist and since there was no contradictory medical opinion within the report. Given these components, the VWCC mentioned it was acceptable to afford the heart specialist’s opinion “preponderating weight regardless of the shortage of narrative rationalization for his opinions.”

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The VWCC discovered that the physician’s questionnaire responses addressed each prongs of the Bass check vital for the defendant to beat the presumption. The physician mentioned Thomson’s AVNRT was not attributable to his employment, satisfying the primary prong of the Bass check.

As to the second prong, the physician mentioned that there was a non-work-related reason for the illness—that the claimant was born with the illness.

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The VWCC famous that the state Supreme Courtroom has defined that the burden of building a non-work-related reason for the illness might be met “upon submission of competent medical proof that the claimant’s situation was greater than seemingly a hereditary phenomenon,” or “a exhibiting that the claimant’s coronary heart situation was ‘usually considered congenital’ or was ‘in all probability’ congenital.” The commissioners concluded that the opinion that Thomson was born with AVNRT was competent medical proof of a non-work-related reason for the illness, satisfying the second prong of the Bass check, the fee continued.

The VWCC additional famous that whereas the heart specialist indicated a chance that the officer’s illness grew to become symptomatic on account of his employment, it’s “well-established that the employer shouldn’t be required to exclude the ‘chance’ that job stress could have been a contributing issue to the illness with a view to rebut the presumption.”

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The VWCC discovered that the heart specialist’s opinion was enough to rebut the presumption by a preponderance of the proof. Thus, Thomson had the burden of proving his AVNRT was an occupational illness or a compensable abnormal illness of life beneath Virginia regulation. However the VWCC discovered that the proof confirmed that his AVNRT was an abnormal illness of life and never work-related and the physician’s opinion that his AVNRT “probably” grew to become symptomatic on account of work-related stress was inadequate to fulfill the burden of proof.

The officer has the best to enchantment the VWCC determination to the Courtroom of Appeals of Virginia.

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Subjects
Workers’ Compensation
Talent
Law Enforcement
Virginia

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