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Court Rules Workers' Comp. Must Pay For Weight-Loss Surgery

The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that a man who was injured on the job can receive workers' compensation for weight-loss surgery.

But attorneys doubt the case will open the door to the state's paying for similar procedures.

Ed Sprague injured his knee in 1976 while working at a bakery in Eugene. Over time, Sprague gained weight and developed arthritis in his injured knee.

Doctors recommended major knee surgery a few years ago – as well as gastric bypass surgery, to relieve strain on the joint.

Sprague’s attorney, Chris Moore, says the Supreme Court ruling clarifies that if a doctor says a secondary procedure is needed, workers' comp pays.

Chris Moore: “In other words, that part of the reason to do the surgery was to actually treat or improve the knee condition all by itself. That it would also benefit his obesity condition was not a reason why we were trying to get the surgery paid for by the workers’ comp system.”

Moore says legislative changes in the 1990s scaled back what workers' comp will pay for. But Moore says some of the changes weren’t clear, and that Thursday's court decision helps clarify things.

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