Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 1281 21
G. Dee (FT) - C. Sacco - M. Tzaferis
  • Significant contribution (of compensable accident to death)

The 70-year old worker broke his hip when he tripped and fell on September 6, 2018. He had hip surgery on September 7, 2018. On September 28, 2018, he had surgery to correct a bowel perforation, and he passed away the next day. The employer appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer awarding survivor benefits to the worker's family.

The appeal was dismissed.
The main direct cause of the worker's death was sepsis from the bowel perforation. There was disagreement in the medical evidence as to whether the perforation was caused by the hip injury and surgery, and the cause of death could not be known with certainty. However, in order for entitlement to be granted, the accident did not need to be the only or even the predominant cause of the worker's death. It only needed to show on a balance of probabilities that the accident was a significant contributing factor in the worker's death.
The most likely cause of the perforated bowel was constipation caused by the opioid medication the worker was taking following surgery. Even if that were not the cause, the circumstances as a whole strongly suggested that it was more likely than not that the worker's death was significantly related to his accident. There was general evidence that individuals who sustain hip fractures have a significantly elevated risk of dying in the year following their injury. There was evidence of heart difficulties in response to the surgery. The worker had pre-existing conditions but these were stable and he had been working full-time prior to the accident. The worker's condition deteriorated rapidly following the accident and surgery.