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Historic Public Health and Communicable Disease Cases

Ames v. Lake Independence Lumber Co., 197 N.W. 499 (Mich. 1924).

(Typhoid Fever, Water, Worker's Compensation, Injury on the Job)

Lake Independence Lumber Co appealed a discussion of the Workman's Compensation Commission of the Department of Labor and Industry of an award to Henry Ames for injuries he sustained by contracting Typhoid Fever while employed with Lake. Lake Independence Lumber Company owned and operated a sawmill at a lumbering town called Big Bay. The town was populated by mostly employees of Lake and their families. In November of 1921, Charles Keller contracted with Lake to raise a building in Big Bay. Keller hired Ames, as well as two other people, to work with him in this project. The project took two weeks, during which times, Keller paid Ames and the other men $3 a day and furnished room and board. During the work the men drank from an outside pipe, which lead from a nearby lake and was usually used to water animals. The men drank from this pipe for several days before someone from the town noticed them drinking and warned them the water from that pipe was not good. After they returned from the job in Big Bay, three of the four men came down with Typhoid Fever, the forth man had been inoculated. The three men made an application to the Department of Labor and Industry for Worker's Compensation claiming that "the disease with which they suffered was an industrial accident which arose out of and in the course of their employment in the services of the company at Big Bay."" The commission dismissed Keller's claim because it was found he was an independent contractor, but awarded Ames and the other man compensation, finding that Typhoid was an industrial accident which they suffered as a result of being employees of Keller while he was under contract by Lake. This made Lake liable for compensation because under the Workmen's Compensation Acts of 1921 "the principal (is) liable for industrial accidents sustained by employees of a contractor when engaged in performance of his contract." Lake appealed this award. The court found that Typhoid was, in fact an "industrial accident" and reviewed the commission's decision to see if there was "competent evidential support for the finding...that it arose out of and in the course of" Ames' employment at Big Bay. The court said that even assuming that there was enough evidence for the commission to conclude that Ames' actually contracted Typhoid from drinking from this pipe, a contention the court seems to find sketchy, the court concludes that Ames had not shown that it had been an industrial accident caused by exposure to some special hazard required of the job. They stated that Lake did not furnish the men with the water or tell them to drink from the pipe. This they did on their own free accord, even though the pipe was obscured and obviously an outside line used for animals and watering rather than drinking. Furthermore, the Employers' Liability Act, 64 Pub.Acts 1919 5(2) states that an employer must be informed of an injury and claim within three months of the injury or no proceeding for compensation shall be maintained, which Ames had not done. For these reasons the court reversed the Commission's award for compensation.

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