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WCB App. Div. Upholds "Legal Causation" Defense

On September 28, 2016, the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division issued a decision upholding the legal causation defense. In Peaslee v. South Portland School Department, Peaslee was a school lunch aid who injured her shoulder when she fell in the school yard for reasons she could not explain. She apparently testified that children were running by her at the time, and she argued that she must have been distracted by the children, thus making her injury work-related. Judge Collier found that she had not met her burden of proving a causal connection between her injury and her employment, and he denied her Petition for Award of Compensation.

Peaslee appealed, but the Appellate Division panel affirmed Judge Collier's decision, finding that the record on appeal did not compel a contrary decision. The panel cited Morse v. LaVerdiere’s Super Drug Store, a 1994 decision by the Maine Supreme Court in a similar case of an "unexplained fall." Peaslee demonstrates that the "legal causation" defense is still valid in Maine, and that it is not enough for an employee to prove that an accident occurred at the work place while the employee was working. To prove both that an injury arose "out of and in the course of employment" as Maine's Workers’ Compensation Act requires, the employee must also show a causal connection between the employee's work and her injury.

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Thomas Getchell
Daniel Gilligan
Michael Richards
Attorneys at Law