A court of appeals upheld the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission’s decision that Manuel Meza Gutierrez failed to prove his injuries were a direct result of his employment at Perdue Farms, Inc.

According to the court opinion, Gutierrez claimed he sustained wrist and head injuries after slipping and falling at work on January 20, 2021. The court found that the evidence supporting Gutierrez’s claim that his fall was caused by conditions at his workplace was speculative at best.

Surveillance footage showed Gutierrez falling on the pavement after emptying two carts into a scoop. Despite Gutierrez’s claims that he slipped on meat remnants, Antonio Del Cid, the driver of the sky track, testified that there was nothing inappropriate or wet on the pavement where Gutierrez had fallen. Other employees who inspected the accident site also found no signs of anything slippery, according to the court documents.

Gutierrez, who had a history of uncontrolled diabetes and difficulty walking, could not recall the events after his fall. He admitted that he had not checked his blood sugar levels while at the plant on the day of the accident, the court opinion noted.

The court concluded that while Gutierrez’s injuries may have occurred at his workplace, there was insufficient evidence to prove that they were caused by his employment. The court affirmed the Commission’s decision, stating that any conclusion about the specific reason for the fall was merely speculative.

“Credible evidence supports the commission’s finding that Meza Gutierrez failed to meet his burden to prove the fall arose out of his employment,” wrote Judge Daniel E. Ortiz in the Court of Appeals of Virginia’s opinion on the case.

“Even though the site of Meza Gutierrez’s fall ‘may have, at times, contained slippery substances or even offal,’ the evidence failed to prove that they were present at the time of his fall or that they caused his fall,” the deputy commissioner noted.

Gutierrez’s case highlights the challenges workers face in proving that their injuries are directly related to their employment, a crucial factor in securing workers’ compensation benefits. The court’s decision also emphasizes the importance of concrete evidence in such cases. &

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