Teacher’s ongoing knee pain not from work accident: Tribunal

Hurt knee in classroom accident but examination reveals pre-existing osteoarthritis

A teacher’s recurrent knee problems are not related to an incident at work where she fell on it, the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal has ruled.

The worker was an occasional teacher who filled in during permanent teachers’ absences. On Oct. 28, 2004, she was working as a substitute teacher when she tried to stop a student from leaving the classroom. The student pulled her and she fell down onto her right knee.

A few days later, on Nov. 1, she saw her family doctor and had an x-ray taken and the radiologist saw indications of osteoarthritis. She didn’t see her doctor again until her annual physical six months later as she claimed the pain didn’t bother her as much in the winter because she didn’t go outside much. On Sept. 16, 2005, she filled out a claim form saying her knee pain was a result of the classroom incident.

The school board gave her an initial entitlement for the incident but denied her anything for an ongoing condition because the x-ray report had found a pre-existing condition. The worker appealed the decision, claiming her condition was aggravated by the classroom incident and hadn’t been a problem before.

The tribunal found the incident at work wasn’t a serious one and her ensuing medical examination didn’t find any “serious acute injury” at the time, only pre-existing osteoarthritis. Also, because she didn’t seek treatment for six months after her initial visit to the doctor, only returning for her regular physical, it was unlikely there was a significant injury, the tribunal said.

The tribunal also found the medical reports that blamed the fall as the “preceding aggravating cause” of the knee problems didn’t discuss her osteoarthritis nor how her condition was related to the incident. It pointed out she continued to work after the incident, including the same week it happened.

“The (medical) reports present a conclusion on causation between the accident and the ongoing pain without substantiating it or considering other possible causes,” the tribunal said. See Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal Decision No. 115/08, 2008 CarswellOnt 1368 (Ont. W.S.I.A.T.).

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