The Appellate Group

Barker v. Labor Comm’n

Barker v. Labor Comm’n, 2023 UT App 31 (Christiansen Forster, J.)

Workers Compensation

After long-term exposure to toxins at work, Dirk Barker, a longtime smoker, developed a chronic breathing disorder that prevented him from working. He sought permanent total disability benefits. The Labor Commission later reduced Barker’s benefits by 75% on account of his smoking. The Appeals Board upheld the determination. But the Utah Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding:

  • Once an employee has proven that she has suffered an injury that would qualify her for disability benefits, an employer must show that the disability also stemmed from non-work-related risks.
  • Barker should have been allowed to record the medical examination ordered by the insurer. Utah Rules of Civil Procedure rule 35 allows plaintiffs to record medical examinations ordered by the defense.
  • Practice Tip: When two rules seem to conflict, unless one rule explicitly preempts the other, they should be read to avoid conflict.

Read the full court opinion