Employee's Actions After Injury Cause Ineligibility for Benefits

October 30, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Court of Appeals of Virginia has determined that an employee who decided to forego an emergency room wait after a work-related accident is not entitled to worker's compensation benefits.

In its opinion, the appellate court cited evidence that Daniel Molloy’s use of excessive pain medication leading him to fall asleep was the reason his arm had to be amputated, and not the fall on icy steps while leaving a late work meeting. The court said Molloy’s actions “broke the chain of causation” between the fall at work and the amputation.

After Molloy fell on the icy steps, he immediately noticed discoloration in his right forearm. He drove to the emergency room, but left because it was too crowded. After returning home, wrapping his forearm in ice and taking four percocet, he fell asleep. Molloy admitted he had also had six percocet prior to the late night work meeting.

According to the opinion, Molloy said when he awoke his arm was contorted and had red bumps all over it, and he was in extreme pain. Molloy’s daughter took him to the hospital, and after unsuccessful attempts to save his arm, it had to be amputated four days later. Several doctors concurred that it was likely Molloy slept on his arm during his deep, drug-induced sleep, causing the circulation to be cut off. They did not feel the fall itself caused the conditions that required his arm to be amputated.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission denied Molloy’s claim for benefits and medical expenses related to his injury. He appealed the commission’s decision, but the appellate court affirmed.

The opinion in Molloy v. Abbeyshroul, Inc. is here .