Equivocal opinion can't rebut presumption hepatitis C was work-related
The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Appeal Board reversed the denial of the claimant's fatal claim petition based on her husband's death from liver disease due to hepatitis C.
Kriebel v. Philadelphia, City of, Fire Dept., 108 LRP 55007 (Pa. W.C.A.B. 2008).
What it means:
Once a claimant establishes that he has an occupational disease, he is entitled to the statutory presumption that the disease arose out of and in the course of his employment. The burden then shifts to the employer to rebut this presumption with substantial, competent evidence.
The claimant filed a fatal claim petition alleging that her husband, a firefighter, died as the result of end stage liver disease due to hepatitis C. The workers' compensation judge denied the petition, concluding that the employer rebutted the statutory presumption that the decedent contracted hepatitis C in the course of his employment. The board disagreed, finding that the opinion of the employer's medical expert did not constitute substantial, competent evidence as it was based on hearsay and suppositions. The board determined that the opinion was equivocal as a matter of law, since the doctor's causation opinion admitted other reasonable possible causes and was a mere statement of statistical probabilities.
November 4, 2008
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