Mercante v. Industrial Commission

In Mercante v. Industrial Commission, 153 Ariz. 261, 263, 735 P.2d 1384, 1386 (App. 1987) the claimant sustained a 1979 industrial injury and was diagnosed with a lumbosacral strain and underlying osteoarthritis. He received brief conservative treatment and returned to his regular work. Id. The following year, the symptoms recurred without apparent cause, and the claimant received additional brief conservative treatment before again returning to regular work. Id. Approximately four years later, the claimant experienced a sudden onset of excruciating pain in his right leg when he tried to get out of bed. He was diagnosed with a herniated disc and underwent surgery. Id. The claimant filed a petition to reopen the 1979 injury claim, and the accepted medical testimony established that his herniated lumbar disc was predisposed to rupture "because prior 'insults' to its supporting envelope had weakened it." Id. These insults included a military service-related injury, the 1979 industrial injury, continued heavy work, and the claimant's underlying osteoarthritis. Id. at 263-64, 735 P.2d at 1386-87. The ALJ found the partially industrially related predisposition was sufficient to establish the requisite causal connection for reopening. Id. at 264, 735 P.2d at 1387. On appeal, the Court recognized that not every consequence of . . . a primary industrial injury is compensable. "The basic rule is that a subsequent injury, whether an aggravation of the original injury or a new and distinct injury, is compensable if it is the direct and natural result of a compensable primary injury." Id. The Court noted that many of the factors contributing to the claimant's predisposition for a disc herniation were industrially related, and concluded that the medical testimony regarding the claimant's predisposition to further injury following the initial industrial injury was sufficient to satisfy the direct and natural result test and to support reopening. Id.