Eye On Boise

TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 2013, 2:19 P.M.

Court rejects worker’s comp claim for psych damage from man who fell into fryer

A restaurant worker who fell into a deep fat fryer and was severely burned can't claim worker's compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder, for which he sought treatment two years after the accident, the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled. Justice Warren Jones, writing for a unanimous court, wrote that the worker didn't prove that his psychological trauma was caused predominantly by the accident with the fryer, and noted that he'd had other stresses in his life as well. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Idaho court rejects PTSD appeal in fryer accident
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A former Idaho cook who tripped and fell into a deep fat fryer can't claim worker's compensation for psychological trauma he claims to have suffered, Idaho Supreme Court justices ruled.

Matthew Mazzone, now 36, was working at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Idaho Falls in 2005. That Nov. 13, Mazzone suffered a severe burn on his right arm when he tripped and plunged it into a 360-degree deep fat fryer.

Mazzone eventually returned to work following extensive surgery and treatment, but claimed later he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.

Idaho Supreme Court justices sided with the Idaho Industrial Commission, however, saying its rejection of Mazzone's claim of a compensable psychological injury pursuant was supported by "substantial and competent evidence."

The Commission concluded that Mazzone had exhibited psychological disorders before his accident that required treatment, including after the still-born death of his first child and a break-up with his girlfriend in 2002.

"The Commission properly concluded that Mazzone failed to demonstrate that his industrial accident was the predominant cause of his alleged PTSD or psychological condition," justices wrote. "By Mazzone's own account, he suffered certain stressors earlier in life."

The restaurant accident in November 2005 was terribly painful, leaving him "in so much pain after burning his arm that he simply crawled under the kitchen sink and cried," according to court documents.

He was eventually transported to a burn unit in Salt Lake City, where he underwent surgery and treatment.

By February 2006, however, his surgeon cleared him to begin working again — provided Mazzone used a glove to protect his injured hand, as needed.

Mazzone sought treatment for what he described as PTSD on October 3, 2007, when he contacted the Department of Health and Welfare Behavioral Health Services.

Mazzone reported ongoing symptoms he said started with his burn, including nightmares, crying spells, mood instability, anxiety, flashbacks, intrusive memories, sleep problems, and hypersensitivity. He attributed his sleep problems to the accident.

Though Mazzone's own doctor concluded he suffered from PTSD, the Industrial Commission's specialist disagreed, deciding "Mazzone did not satisfy the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD and may have been exhibiting exaggerated pain behaviors," according to court documents.

Justices agreed with the Commission's rejection, in part because Mazzone had reportedly made significant strides immediately following the accident toward health.

"Given Mazzone's positive post-incident recovery and the many other stressors that he endured before and after the accident, substantial evidence supports the Commission's determination that the predominant cause of Mazzone's condition was not the accident," justices wrote.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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