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Circumstantial Evidence Sufficient to Support a Finding of Industrial Injury

BENITEZ, QUEZADA vs. AG FORCE, LLC
(2017) 2017 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 580

This claim for worker’s compensation death benefits was brought by the widow of a farm laborer.  The applicant alleged that while working for defendant as a peach picker, decedent suffered a spider bite which became infected.  The infection spread, resulting in organ failure and death.

Defendant denied the claim, arguing that if there was a spider bite, it occurred while the decedent was working for another employer at a vineyard or in the trailer where the decedent and his family lived.  Defendant also argued that the applicant could not prove where or when the decedent was bitten.

Following Trial, the Workers Compensation Judge found in favor of the applicant.  The Judge noted that there was sufficient evidence to support the award, including testimony from the widow that her husband had told her he had been bitten.  In addition, the decedent had told doctors that he had been bitten.  The coroner’s report indicated that the development of the infection and related symptoms were consistent with a brown recluse spider bite.

Citing Guerra vs. WCAB (2016) 246 Cal. App. 4th 1301, the Workers Compensation Judge found that, taken together, the various pieces of circumstantial evidence supported a finding of industrial causation.

Defendant filed a Petition for Reconsideration which was summarily denied.

Written by Edward L. Hummer, Associate Attorney in Mullen & Filippi’s Santa Rosa office, June 2018.