Commercial traveler rule and neutral risk doctrine applied in case involving carbon dioxide exposure

This is a very significant case for workers’ compensation principles.

The applicant was on  a business trip. He rented a vehicle and put two boxes of frozen fish  on dry ice in in his trunk.

He was later found unconscious in his car and administered CPR. He died and was diagnosed with a catastrophic hypoxic event caused by carbon dioxide exposure. 

Defendant denied the claim and a  trial was held. Defendant indicated that the Qualified Medical Examiner only indicated that it was difficult to conclude that the exposure to carbon dioxide contributed to the injury. Therefore, the defendant indicated that this did not meet the medical probable standard for compensability.

The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) ruled the case arose out of and in the course of employment. The WCJ ruled that the carbon dioxide was a contributing cause. The defendant filed a petition for reconsideration.

The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) ruled that all reasonable doubts as to injury are resolved in favor of the employee.  Even if the medical evidence is insufficient, the claim could be found compensable under the neutral risk doctrine. This is where the employee dies under unexplained circumstances at the workplace. The WCAB also indicated the commercial traveler rule would apply because the applicant was on a business trip.

Editor: Harvey Brown
Samuelsen, Gonzalez, Valenzuela & Brown
3501 Jamboree Suite 602
Newport Beach, Ca 92660
(949) 689-5586


Harvey Brown
3501 Jamboree Rd. Suite 602
Newport Beach, CA 92660

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