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Historic Public Health and Communicable Disease Cases

Basil v. Butterworth Hospital, 262 N.W. 281 (Mich. 1935)

(Worker's Compensation, Scarlet Fever, Industrial Accident)

Ms. Basil was an employee of Butterworth Hospital in February 1930 when she contracted Scarlet Fever. Ms. Basil claimed that she contracted Scarlet Fever from a student nurse with whom she came into contact with on a daily basis through the course of her job as a cafeteria worker. Ms. Basil filed a worker's compensation claim based on the theory that her illness was an industrial accident arising out of and in the course of her employment. The deputy commissioner heard testimony and denied compensation. The board reversed and awarded Ms. Basil money damages. The hospital appealed. The Supreme Court of Michigan reversed the award. They stated that, because the hospital did not care for people with contagious diseases nor was Ms. Basil's exposure due to her being asked to perform a duty not within the normal realm of her job, the illness cannot be considered an occupational injury. The Supreme Court also found that an illness contracted due to exposure from a fellow employee was also not a compensable injury. The Court outlines a number of cases that shed light on the intent of the Worker's Compensation Act and found that the spirit of the Act was to include only those injuries arising out of normal duties or those injuries which resulted from the employee being asked to perform abnormal duties. Since Butterworth Hospital did not have a contagious disease ward, nor was she asked to perform an abnormal duty. Because of this her exposure to Scarlet Fever was incidental and not due to hazards encounter through her responsibilities as a cafeteria worker.

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