November 10, 2016
by Megan Vaniman

Claimant only required to show idiopathic factors were less likely to have caused unexplained injury

Vaniman-Megan_160-x-222The Oregon Court of Appeals established new case-law on claimant’s burden of proof in “unexplained fall” claims. If an injury is unexplained, as a matter of law, it is presumed to arise out of employment. Whether an injury is unexplained, is a question of fact. An injury is only deemed truly unexplained if the claimant eliminates idiopathic factors as causative.

In Sheldon v. U.S. Bank, claimant fell in the lobby of her employer’s building. U.S. Bank denied the claim and argued her fall was caused by her diabetes and obesity. The Workers’ Compensation Board agreed and determined because there was medical evidence demonstrating diabetes and obesity can contribute to balance problems her fall was not truly unexplained.

The Court of Appeals overturned the Board decision. The Court determined the Board applied the wrong burden of proof. The Court held that the Board’s order required claimant to eliminate all possible idiopathic explanations as causes. Instead, the Court held that the correct standard only requires claimant prove that idiopathic factors were less likely to have caused her fall than some other, unexplained factors.

You can read the full opinion here. 

If you have any questions on this case or an unexplained injury claim, please contact me at