Partner Steve Murdock recently prevailed in a Section 19(b)/8(a) Trial on the defense that an employee arising from a squatting position is not at a greater risk for injury than a member of the general public, particularly when the squatting position is for about 15 minutes and the employee is neither lifting or carrying anything as he arose. In this case, the employee was participating in some emergency training exercises with fellow employees. While doing so, he went into a squat position for approximately 15 minutes. When he stood up, he felt a pop in his knee, but was able to carry on with the rest of his daily activities. An initial examination later that day failed to reveal any abnormalities. A subsequent examination about five weeks later for continued knee pain complaints, including an MRI, again failed to reveal any abnormalities. The claimant saw an orthopedic surgeon approximately four months later, after going on two snow skiing trips to Colorado and Michigan, complaining of worsening knee pain, and this doctor found a possible meniscal injury on the MRI films. Respondent’s Section 12 IME found the MRI films to be normal as did the treating physician who prescribed the MRI.
The arbitrator found that the claimant failed to prove he was exposed to a risk greater than that to which the general public is exposed on the alleged date of accident. In doing so, the arbitrator found that there was no other evidence aside from the claimant’s initial medical history and his testimony that he arose from a squatting position to standing after about 15 minutes and felt a popping sensation in the right knee. There was nothing peculiar about the employment location or anything regarding equipment he was lifting or carrying when this occurred that would place the claimant at a greater risk for this injury than the risk to which the general public is equally exposed. For that reason, the arbitrator found that the claimant failed to prove a compensable accident.
On the issue of causation, the arbitrator noted that three doctors, the occupational medicine physician, the claimant’s first choice of doctor and the respondent’s IME, found the claimant had nothing more than a strained knee at the time of the incident. The MRI radiologist also reported normal findings on the MRI. The only doctor to suggest possible internal derangement was the claimant’s second choice of physician, who first saw the claimant about eight months after the incident and after the claimant “may have tweaked” his knee while snow skiing. The arbitrator concluded that the petitioner failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence a medical causal connection between the possible internal derangement and the alleged accident.