Court Makes Finding of Pain that is Totally or Virtually Totally Disabling
On January 13, 2012, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released its decision in the case of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company v. Brian Haygood wherein it upheld the trial court’s ruling that Haygood was permanently and totally disabled due to pain in his foot. Under the "exceedingly high standard" previously set out in the case of Norandal U.S.A., Inc. v. Graben, pain can be used as a basis for removing an otherwise scheduled injury from the schedule when it is totally or virtually totally disabling to the body as a whole. To qualify as an exception to the schedule, the pain must be such that it completely or almost completely prevents the employee from engaging in physical activities with the uninjured parts of his body.
Haygood allegedly injured his foot while working at Goodyear in 2009, and sought permanent and total disability benefits. One of Haygood’s doctors stated that Haygood had pain of partially neuropathic origin, a milder version of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Another of Haygood’s doctors had assigned a medical impairment rating of 10% to Haygood’s right foot, which the doctor translated to a 7% impairment to the lower extremity and a 3% to Haygood’s body-as-a-whole. At trial, Haygood testified that, due to pain from the injury which he consistently rated as a 9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, he could not walk without a cane, he often cried, and had to lie down up to 23 hours per day. Haygood also testified to his inability to sleep, stand, drive, shop, ride his motorcycle, and do other things that he stated were routine in most people’s daily lives. The trial Court found that Haygood struggled with pain even while at rest and, as such, his CRPS-like pain prevented him from engaging in physical activities with the uninjured parts of his body. Based on this finding, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling that Haygood was permanently and totally disabled due to pain that was totally or virtually totally disabling.