Posted on 02/28/2012
In a recent case, my client faced a potential $6 to 8 million pay out to a woman who claimed she was bitten by a flea while at work. How is it possible for a single alleged flea bite to lead to a case like this? Through a situation that’s more plausible and common than you might think.
The plaintiff in this case suffered from deep vein thrombosis, a condition which had caused a blood clot to form in a deep vein in her leg. This, in turn, caused the blood to start flowing more heavily through the outer veins of her leg. This can get extremely itchy…just like a flea bite. Unfortunately, for those who suffer from deep vein thrombosis, scratching these veins on the outside of the leg often leads to the creation of ulcers, which in turn can actually result in the amputation of the limb.
The basic synopsis of the plaintiff’s medical case was:
The case hinged on one important point
Two doctors testified that the amputation was the result of a flea bite that had occurred at work. The defense doctor and the independent medical evaluator ordered by the court found that the amputation was not industrial-related. The reality is, though, that if the plaintiff could have proven that there were fleas in the building, they would have won the case. Luckily, they could not. Sager & Associates established that there was no proof that fleas had existed in the building, and that the plaintiff was the only one who allegedly saw them there.
Because they wanted to treat this employee well, my client ultimately chose to resolve the case for $90,000 (not the $6 to 8 million that the plaintiff had demanded). This included an agreement from the employee noting that the incident was related to her deep vein thrombosis and was not the result of her employment with my client.
What you can learn from this case
Most employers are pretty good about having a reputable pest control company come out to their premises on a regular (at least annual or semi-annual) basis to inspect for bugs and spray as necessary. Where many fall flat is in keeping records to prove that this has happened. The lesson here is that it’s not enough to have the work done. You also need to keep meticulous documentation proving that the inspections and pest control treatment has taken place.