by | Jul 14, 2021

Recently, in Bunz v. A.C. Lightning Prot. Co., Inc., the Nebraska Court of Appeals addressed the difference between an aggravation and an independent intervening cause in an unpublished opinion. While the opinion is unpublished, meaning that it cannot be cited as authoritative, it provides a strong analysis of the differences between these two types of injuries.

In Bunz, the employee suffered a work related injury to his lower back. Then, months later, he sustained another back injury at home when he attempted to move a large desk in his residence. The question presented was whether the second injury, and any impairment arising therefrom, was compensable or not.

The employer argued that the second injury was a separate and independent injury, unrelated to the first. The employer argued that it should not be liable for an injury an employee sustained in their own home, performing a task that was completely unrelated to their work.

The employee argued that the second injury was an aggravation of the first. Meaning, if not for his first work related back injury, he would never have sustained a second back injury in his home. The Court of Appeals agreed with the employee.

The Court of Appeals reasoned that the first injury made the employee susceptible to additional injury later on. The fact that the employee aggravated his work injury, at home, doing a personal task, was irrelevant. The Court of Appeals found that if the employee had not sustained the original work related back injury, he would not have sustained any injury moving his desk at home. Therefore, the injury was properly classified as an aggravation and compensable; not an independent intervening cause.

This post was drafted by Emily Fehringer, a law student and law clerk at Baylor Evnen. If you have questions about whether an injury is an aggravation of an earlier injury or the result of an independent intervening cause, please contact Micah C. Hawker-Boehnke or Paul Barta at 402-475-1075 for more information.