Vencil v. Valmont Industries, Inc. solidified an earlier 1991 Nebraska Supreme Court ruling that injuries resulting from repetitive work-related trauma must be compensated as accidents under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act and may not be compensated as occupational diseases under the Act. This Note analyzes the significance of the court's decision and criticizes the court's reliance on the rule of Maxson v. Michael Todd & Co., Inc. which the court has construed to mandate that such injuries may be compensated only as accidents. The Note begins by stating the critical facts of Vencil and outlining the majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions. A brief history of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act is given, followed by the criteria an injured worker must meet in order to receive compensation for an accident or an occupational disease under the Act. The Note then criticizes the rationale of the majority and points out five problems with the majority's analysis. First, the majority opinion rests solely on a misinterpretation of its 1980 decision in Crosby v. American Stores. Second, the majority decision is irreconcilable with other prior Nebraska case law. Third, the ruling has the effect of removing recovery for conditions that meet the criteria for occupational disease under the Act; the court both misreads the legislative intent and also encroaches upon a legislative function. Fourth, the decision distances Nebraska from mainstream workers' compensation law. Finally, the Note analyzes the recent Nebraska Supreme Court ruling in Schiup v. Auburn Needleworks, which vividly illustrates the problems created by the removal of recovery for occupational diseases from the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act. The Note concludes that the decision reached by the court is unwarranted and will have an adverse effect on injured parties who have colorable claims for compensation due to occupational diseases under the Act by forcing the injured employees to seek recovery as accidents for what are properly characterized as occupational diseases.
Craig C. Dirrim,
The Nebraska Supreme Court Sounds the Death Knell for Recovery for Occupational Diseases under the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act: Vencil v. Valmont Industries, Inc., 239 Neb. 31, 473 N.W.2d 409 (1991),
71 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol71/iss3/10