The Kansas Court of Appeals recently held that some injuries compensable under the Kansas Workers Compensation Act are hybrid conditions that have elements of both a work-related injury and an occupational disease.
In Casey v. Dillon Companies, Inc., Docket No. 93,302 (July 1, 2005), the claimant developed allergic reactions while employed at Dillons. Testing revealed that she was allergic to fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, molds, trees, grasses, weeds and animal danders. However her only exposure with produce was in handling produce items while working as a checker.
The court held that the claimant’s condition did not meet the definition of an occupational disease since there was no special risk associated with her work at Dillons. The disease must appear to have had its origin in a special risk connected with the particular type of employment and to have resulted from that source as a reasonable consequence of the risk. The definition of occupational disease in K.S.A. 44B5a01(b) excludes ordinary diseases of life and conditions to which the general public is or may be exposed to outside of the particular employment, and hazards of diseases and conditions attending employment in general. Her exposure in the workplace was minimal and her condition more closely meets the definition of Aordinary diseases of life@ and conditions which the general public may be exposed to outside of the particular employment.
Although the court held claimant’s allergic reactions are not an occupational disease, it did find that they are compensable as a work-related injury. Borrowing from language in Berry v. Boeing Military Airplanes, 20 Kan.App.2nd 220, 229, 885 P.2nd 1261 (1994), the court concluded her condition was caused by repetitive trauma to her immune system over a long period of time during her employment.
Although the court concluded she was entitled to compensation for a work related injury, there was substantial competent evidence to support the Board’s earlier conclusion that claimant’s work related injury was only temporary in nature as she was essentially a normal healthy individual once removed from her workplace. Accordingly, no compensation was awarded for permanent partial impairment.
To read the entire decision in this case see http://www.kscourts.org/kscases/ctapp/2005/20050701/93302.htm