The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled that COVID-19 can be considered an occupational disease under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act, affirming a decision by the Industrial Claims Appeals Office.

The case involved Life Care Centers of America and its insurer, Old Republic Insurance Co., which sought to overturn a ruling by the Industrial Claim Appeals Office that awarded workers’ compensation benefits to Vincent Gaines and his surviving spouse, Sheila Jackson. Gaines contracted and died from COVID-19 while working at a skilled nursing facility operated by Life Care.

Gaines had worked for Life Care for over 20 years as a floor technician and a member of the housekeeping department. After contracting COVID-19, his health rapidly deteriorated, resulting in his hospitalization and death a month later. Jackson filed a workers’ compensation claim on Gaines’s behalf, asserting that he had been exposed to and contracted COVID-19 at the facility. Life Care and Old Republic contested the claim.

An administrative law judge concluded that Gaines had suffered a compensable occupational disease causally related to his employment. The judge found it more probable than not that Gaines’s COVID-19 infection was related to his presence in Life Care’s facility to discharge his work duties. The judge was persuaded that his infection followed as a natural incident of his work in the facility and, as a result of the exposure occasioned by the nature of his employment, Gaines fell ill and died.

Life Care and Old Republic appealed to the Industrial Claim Appeals Office, asserting that the the administrative law judge’s order was not supported by substantial evidence and failed to resolve material conflicts in the record. The appeals panel rejected the petitioners’ arguments and affirmed the judge’s order.

“The novel virus raises a unique consideration under Colorado workers’ compensation law,” the panel’s decision read. “Because of the nature of a virus, it cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt precisely where or from whom an individual had the exposure that transmitted the disease. Like the ALJ, we believe a reasoned statistical analysis can determine where the site of exposure was most probable. The ALJ concluded that it was more probable than not that the exposure site was within the facility.”

The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the panel’s decision, finding that COVID-19 met the statutory definition of an “occupational disease” set forth under the Workers’ Compensation Act of Colorado.

View the ruling on the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

The post COVID-19 Can Be Occupational Disease Under Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act: Court appeared first on Risk & Insurance.

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