The recent Kentucky Court of  Appeals decision of Kentucky Employers Safety Association v. Kirkland, et al, No. 2007-CA-002360-WC began with the Louisville workers’ compensation insurer’s denial of a $700 medical bill.  KESA not only lost the appeal but precipitated a to-be-published decision expanding the meaning of “traumatic event” to include contact with blood or bodily fluids.

In 2005, Kirkland, an employee with Lexington Diagnostic Center, was splattered with blood while flushing a patient’s I.V.  The blood landed on his face and entered his right eye.  Kirkland was immediately administered the OSHA protocol for post-exposure to communicable diseases.  Under the protocol Kirkland was to be tested for Hepatitis B, HIV, liver function, and Hepatitis C upon his initial visit and, thereafter, six weeks post injury, twelve weeks post injury, six months post injury and twelve months post injury. 

KESA paid for the initial six-week and three-month evaluations and the initial three-month office visit, but refused payment for the six-week, six-month and twelve-month evaluations and associated laboratory testing.

The ALJ below found a work-related injury occurred and ordered payment of the contested expenses.  KESA appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Board, who affirmed, commenting “[I]t would be absurd to rule that the protocol recognized by the parties that has been put in place to treat this type of exposure would not be compensable under the Act.” 

Relentless in its attempt to avoid payment of the $700 medical expense, KESA appealed to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the Board and held that contact with blood and other body fluids alone is sufficient to constitute a physical injury per KRS 342.  It further commented that KESA’s denial of “medical benefits incurred as a result of a process that would detect any disease contracted and possibly be life saving is contrary to the humanitarian and beneficent purposes of the Act.”

All judges concurred

BEFORE:  COMBS, CHIEF JUDGE; ACREE AND THOMPSON, JUDGES

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