Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 877 20
D. Revington
  • Smoking
  • Preexisting condition (obesity)
  • Second Injury and Enhancement Fund {SIEF} (preexisting condition)
  • Second Injury and Enhancement Fund {SIEF} (severity of accident)

In July 2016, the worker, who was then 47-years-old, slipped on oil on the floor between two metal racks. He fell forward. As he fell, he reached for a metal rack with his right hand to brace his fall. He grabbed the rack but continued to fall. His knees hit the floor. The worker felt his right shoulder "pop" as he fell. He experienced immediate pain in his right shoulder. This shoulder injury was subsequently diagnosed as a complete right supraspinatus tendon tear. At the time of the accident the worker was five feet eight inches tall, and weighed 250 pounds.

The employer appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying the employer SIEF relief.
The Vice-Chair found that the accident would reasonably be expected to cause a disabling injury and that, accordingly, the accident was of moderate severity.
There was evidence of degenerative changes in the worker's shoulder. The Tribunal medical discussion paper on Shoulder Injury and Disability notes that, in middle or older aged people, degenerative changes inside the tendon make the tendon weaker to a point where the tear may occur spontaneously with no trauma or with trivial trauma. Based on the discussion paper and the other medical evidence, the Vice-Chair found that age-related changes in the worker's shoulder were in keeping with his age, so they did not establish a pre-existing condition for the purposes of the SIEF policy.
The worker's obesity was playing a minor role in enhancing the period of disability resulting from the accident. If the worker had not been as heavyset, his shoulder injury would not have been as severe. The Vice-Chair noted that finding obesity to be a pre-existing condition for the purposes of SIEF has not been a common finding in Tribunal decisions, but, in this case, there was specific supportive medical evidence.
Smoking was not a pre-existing condition in this case. There was no medical reporting dealing specifically with the facts of this case to support a theory that the worker had physiological changes attributable to smoking that prolonged his recovery from his shoulder injury. The theory advanced by the employer was primarily speculative in nature in this case.
Based on an accident of moderate severity and a pre-existing condition (obesity) of minor medical significance, the employer was entitled to 25% SIEF relief. The appeal was allowed in part.