Simmons v. Charleston – When Spider Bites Prompt Workers’ Compensation Claim

It’s summer: The flowers are in full bloom. The weather is warm. The bees are buzzing – and so are a lot of other insects and other pests, many of which carry much more potential danger.spider.jpg

Spartanburg workers’ compensation lawyers recognize that those who work outdoors or in the agriculture industries may be most at-risk for insect or other animal bite-related injuries. However, that’s not always the case, and so long as the bite results in injury and arises out of occurs in the course of your employment, it is likely to be compensable.

Hopefully, if you suffer an insect or other animal bite, the worst that happens is a small red mark that is treatable with a first-aid kit and doesn’t cause you to miss any work. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some workers may be allergic to certain types of bites, and may require special or extensive treatment to recover. Beyond that, however, certain types of spider bites in particular may be compensable when they result in serious injury.

There was an example of this in South Carolina several years ago with the case of Simmons v. City of Charleston, which was heard before the South Carolina Court of Appeals. Although this case dates back to 2002, it serves as a guide to the court for similar cases in the future.

According to court records, the plaintiff had worked for the City of Charleston as a firefighter for 25 years, attaining the rank of captain at the time of the incident. The crew was called to respond to an incident at a hotel. As he rushed to place his fireman’s boots on his foot, he as bitten by a brown recluse spider.

Over the course of several days, the wound inflicted by the spider got significantly worse. He sought treatment from his regular doctor, who then referred him to a surgeon. He was advised not to return to work. He suffered from chronic diabetes and had poor circulation, which did not help as his body tried to recover.

The doctor attempted skin graft surgeries, but those efforts failed, largely because of the diabetes. A third surgery, accompanied by extensive therapy, was successful.

The worker also suffered from poor nerve function in his extremities, which meant he was unable to feel pain as well as the rest of us. He tended to favor his right leg and put extra pressure on that leg as he worked through his long recovery from the spider bite. What he didn’t realize due to his condition was that blisters were forming. They eventually burst and became infected.

Eventually, he had to have the leg amputated below the knee. He was assigned 100 percent disability to that leg.

He then filed for workers’ compensation, but the city denied the claim. A hearing was held, at which a representative for the plaintiff noted the worker’s injury, his age (58) and the fact that he had a ninth-grade education. The single commissioner found him totally and permanently disabled, and eligible to receive compensation for 500 weeks. He was also granted payment for reasonable and necessary medical, prosthetic and other related services.

The full commission affirmed that decision, as did the circuit court.

The city again appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Part of the argument was that the worker should have had to show that he had greater risk of injury of a spider bite at work than while in the general public, and that this standard hadn’t been met.

The state refused this argument, stating that whether the risk was greater at work or at home didn’t matter. All that mattered was whether the injury arose out of the course of his employment which, in this case, the court found, it did.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Simmons v. City of Charleston, Feb. 1 2002

More Blog Entries
Wingfield v. Hill Bros. Transp. – Proving Legal and Medical Causation in Work Injuries, May 27, 2014, Greenville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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