Though being exposed to the cold for long periods of time is certainly uncomfortable, that doesn’t mean it is always the cause of an injury that would be grounds for a workers’ comp claim. You have to provide evidence that some other major factor did not cause the injury. In this case the claimant was unable to prove that the cold caused his injury.
Daniel Phelan worked for the Bethpage State Park in New York for more than 35 years and most of his work was outside doing maintenance and yard work. It gets pretty chilly in New York during the winter and he claimed that the cold conditions were to blame for the diabetic ulceration with an osteomyelitis (bone infection) he developed on his right foot. He ultimately had to amputate a portion of his right foot.
His employer said no, no, no you developed that because you had diabetes not because of your work conditions. The original workers’ comp judge said that he did deserve disability benefits because of his foot and the cold but the workers’ comp board reversed their decision.
Mr. Phelan appealed but the New York appellate division agreed with the board and said the cold was not the contributing factor that caused his ulceration and osteomyelitis. It could not be considered an occupational disease since it did not come from the nature of his work. The podiatrist who examined Mr. Phelan also said that there was strong evidence that diabetes was the big factor in his condition but that cold weather may have played a part. The courts considered this “less than compelling medical evidence” and did not award him benefits.