A three-judge panel of the Texas 1st District Court of Appeal unanimously overturned a summary judgment denying a Texas man workers’ comp benefits for a traumatic brain injury. The ruling means that Francisco Chamul, a brick mason who fell from scaffolding to concrete in 2008 and was in a coma for 36 days after the accident, could be eligible for lifetime benefits. The conflict in the case centers around whether or not his condition fits an expanded definition of “imbecility” used in Texas workers’ comp law. Previously, permanent brain damage at the level of “imbecility” was defined by the courts as a mental age of five to seven years old. Chamul’s doctor placed his capacity at 11 or 12 years old.
The appellate court noted in its decision that the imbecility standard was incorporated into Texas law in 1917 and that it was based on the “now-repudiated eugenics movement” of the late-19th to mid-20th century. The court’s opinion also acknowledged that the term is “now outdated and considered offensive.”
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