Mobile Airport Authority v. Etheredge
April 20, 2012
In this case, 57 year old Robert Etheredge filed a workers’ compensation charge against his employer, Mobile Airport Authority. In 2006 he injured his foot while on the job. Mobile Airport paid him temporary benefits for total disability from 2006 until 2009. Throughout this time period, Mr. Etheredge continued to have problems with his foot and was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy. After the symptoms of his diagnosis were treated in 2007, he was allowed to go back to work. However, the pain in his foot persisted and a previous diagnosis of degenerative disk disease also intensified. Finally, in December of 2007, the employee suffered from certain working conditions that caused his degenerative disease to become aggressive and force him to undergo surgery to improve his state. After this surgery, he did not return to work. Even though the company provided evidence supporting that Mr. Etheredge’s job was considered to be less physically demanding, his physician testified that by being subjected to such conditions his patients’ condition was worsened. The court ruled that the employee was disabled completely and ruled in his favor. The employer appealed.
Decision: Affirmed. The company claimed that the issue resulting from Etheredge’s back condition was protected under the statute of limitations, but the court found that the employee’s worsened condition was caused by the actions he would partake in while working. Secondly, the court found that even though the back injury had occurred previously in 2007 without being reported, the company was still responsible for his medical expenses, because it had happened on the job and, because the company was already aware of his foot injury. Finally, the employer claimed that the injuries suffered by the employee were cumulative and therefore he was required to produce enough convincing evidence to prove his side of the argument. The company claimed he did not meet this necessity. The court found ruled otherwise.