Denver — A Colorado Springs city employee who became wheelchair-bound weeks after an on-the-job injury scored a major victory last week in the Colorado Court of Appeals, which ruled that the worker’s loss of the use of his legs was related to his workplace injury and therefore eligible for benefits under state worker’s compensation laws.
The plaintiff, Theodore Martinez, 54, was represented by the law firm of Franklin D. Azar & Associates. Azar attorney Royce Mueller estimates that the ruling could translate into $8-$10 million in lifetime care benefits for Martinez, including medical treatment, home modifications, home health care, wage benefits and related costs.
In 2018 Martinez was working as a senior instrument and control electrical specialist in Colorado Springs’ wastewater management system. Lifting some equipment one day, he suffered what was diagnosed as a minor back strain. But his symptoms soon became more severe, leading to hospitalization and a staph infection that attacked his spine; within a few weeks, he had lost the ability to move his legs.
City officials rejected Martinez’s application for disability benefits, contending that the infection wasn’t related to his workplace injury. But an infectious disease specialist testified that Martinez’s back injury and weakened condition made him more vulnerable to the conditions that caused his paraplegia. An administrative law judge agreed with that finding, as did the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the ALJ’s decision in an unpublished opinion on July 9. The opinion cited other “chain of causation” cases, “in which the industrial injury leaves a body in a weakened condition and the weakened condition plays a causative role in the subsequent injury.”
Mueller says his client was “just ecstatic” when he received news of the Court’s decision.
Franklin D. Azar & Associates is one of the largest plaintiff law firms in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Greenwood Village, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.