Court of Appeals Addresses Injuries Affecting More than One Scheduled Member and Double Compensation for Injuries to Minors
On May 4, 2012, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released its decision in the case of Denmark v. Industrial Manufacturing Specialists, Inc. In that case, the Court addressed whether a 16 year old boy who suffered an ankle injury was entitled to double compensation, and whether he was entitled to be compensated according to the schedule for his leg or only for his foot. Lucas Denmark worked part time for IMS, cutting metal-bar stock using a band saw. In March 2006, he and another employee were loading bar stock onto a table, when some of it fell on his left ankle. Denmark had surgery and a metal plate was inserted in his ankle. Although he was eventually released to return to work without any restrictions, Denmark continued to complain of pain that radiated both down to his foot and up his leg. A Circuit Court Judge in Morgan County found that Denmark suffered a 10% partial loss of use of his left foot, and that since IMS had already paid TTD benefits in excess of the value of the 10% PPD, Denmark was not entitled to any additional compensation for his injuries. The trial Court also found that IMS had violated child labor laws by employing Denmark to operate a band saw, but found that he has not entitled to double compensation because there was no nexus between operating the saw and the injury.
Denmark appealed, asserting that the trial Court erred in failing to award him compensation for the partial loss of use of his leg as opposed to just his foot, and that it further erred in failing to award double compensation pursuant to § 25-5-34 after finding that IMS employed him in violation of child labor laws. Denmark argued that since his ankle is above his foot and the pain extended to his leg, he should be compensated for the partial loss of use of his leg. Denmark argued that the Court’s holdings in Boise Cascade Corp. v. Jackson, 997 So.2d 1026, 1032 n. 8 (Ala.Civ.App. 2000), Wolfe v. Dunlop Tire Corp., 660 So.2d 1345 (Ala.Civ.App. 2005), and Simpson v. Dallas Selma Cmty. Action Agency, 637 So.2d 1360 (1994) dictated that an injury extending from a larger scheduled member into a smaller scheduled member must be compensated as an injury to the larger member. However, the Court noted that according to § 25-5-57(a)(3)a.15 of the Act, the amputation of a leg between then knee and ankle shall be considered the equivalent of the loss of the foot. Since there was no evidence that Denmark’s pain extended up his leg beyond his knee, and based on the logic of § 25-5-57(a)(3)a.15, the trial Court properly found that Denmark’s injury was one limited to the foot, and not the leg.
However, the appellate Court reversed the trial Court’s decision regarding double compensation. There was no dispute that minors are prohibited from operating saws, and there was no dispute that moving large pieces of bar stock to put them into the saw was part of Denmark’s job. As such, the Court found that although Denmark was not actually operating the band saw at the time of the accident, Denmark was entitled to double compensation because he was working at a job that he was prohibited from doing due to his age.