COURT: SHOE-TYING DRIVER CAN COLLECT WORKERS COMP:

A United Parcel Service driver who hurt his back while tying his shoe is entitled to workers compensation benefits, says the Idaho Supreme Court.

Michael Vawter began working as a UPS delivery driver in 1983. In 2009, when he stooped to tie his boot laces while waiting for his truck to warm up at the start of his shift, Vawter immediately felt “a pop and pain” in his lower back, according to court records.

After being diagnosed with a herniated disc and cauda equina syndrome (a neurological condition of the lower spine), he filed for workers comp benefits, claiming that his injury resulted from his work at UPS.

The company denied Vawter's claim, arguing that his injury was not work-related, but resulted from a pre-existing condition. However, the Idaho Industrial Commission ruled that he should receive temporary total disability benefits, plus another $149,000 in medical expenses. After a series of appeals by UPS, the state Supreme Court upheld the commission’s decision, ruling that injuries to workers are presumed to arise from their employment when an accident occurs on an employer's premises. The decision also noted that UPS requires its employees to have their shoes tied or secured under a policy that specifies “no loose or dangling parts” on employee footwear.

In addition to affirming the benefits previously awarded to Vawter, the high court ordered the company to pay an additional $24,627 in medical costs that he accrued between the date of his 2009 injury and the first hearing before the Commission.

The moral of the story: Before you contest any workers comp claim, be sure you’re on sound legal grounds.

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