Fastenal and Phoenix Insurance v. Labor Commission

Fastenal and Phoenix Insurance v. Labor Commission, 2020 UT App 53 (Mortensen, J.)

Workers’ Compensation

An employee drove a semitruck for over one year and developed a pressure ulcer on his foot that led to surgery. The employee had a preexisting condition—peripheral neuropathy—but he drove the semitruck for 11 hours per day, and the clutch required 67 pounds of pressure to be fully engaged. With the assessment of a medical panel, the ALJ concluded that the repetitive pressure of engaging the clutch caused the pressure ulcer. The Commission awarded the employee workers’ compensation benefits. The employer appealed. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • Because the employee had a preexisting condition, to receive workers’ compensation benefits, the employee had to show that the employment contributed something substantial to increase the risk he already faced in everyday life because of his preexisting condition. Repetition of a workplace activity can constitute an objectively unusual or extraordinary exertion, and the employee’s employment activity met this standard. The employee operated the semi-truck clutch with his left foot, which required force greater than that required to operate many consumer vehicles, and he did this repeatedly while driving the semitruck for long days over an extended period of time.
  • The employer did not demonstrate that its due process rights were violated. First, the replacement of the ALJ is specifically allowed in the Administrative Procedures Act. Second, the employer did not object to the medical panel’s report, and when the employer brought its arguments against the medical panel’s report before the Commission, the Commission concluded that it would not change its decision. Third, the composition of the Panel was proper; the members of the Panel met the statutory requirement of specializing in the treatment of the disease or condition involved in the claim. 

Read the full court opinion