Claimant fails to link lung disease to chemical exposure at work
Case name: Greater Mobile Chrysler-Jeep, Inc. v. Atterberry, No. 2070562 (Ala. Civ. App.12/19/08).
Ruling: The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's finding that the claimant was entitled to temporary total disability benefits because he injured himself, contracted an occupational disease, and suffered a non-accidental injury from exposure to chemicals at work.
What it means: In Alabama, where a claimant presents sufficient legal and medical evidence that he acquired a compensable occupational disease, he must demonstrate a link between the exposure to the chemicals used in his work and his development of the disease to prevail. Alternatively, to prove he suffered from a non-accidental injury, the claimant must establish legal and medical causation by clear and convincing evidence.
Summary: The claimant acquired a severe respiratory condition that he attributed to working with chemicals while employed as an automobile detailer. He sued his employer alleging he had acquired an occupational disease or non-accidental injury as a result of his continuous exposure to a number of products containing toxic chemicals. Although he presented medical and expert testimony establishing he had interstitial disease and worked with hazardous chemicals, the court found the claimant did not establish a link between the two factors that would entitle him to TTD benefits.
The claimant's medical expert testified the detergents and solvents the claimant used were toxic to the lungs if aerosolized. However, the claimant did not present any evidence that the chemicals were ever aerosolized.
The court also found the claimant failed to establish he suffered a non-accidental injury, as he was unable to show that he was exposed to a risk materially in excess of those people are exposed to in their everyday lives. The employer pointed out that the claimant's expert was unable to elaborate on the amounts of chemicals the claimant was exposed to at work, and the court agreed that the claimant did not establish legal causation for his condition.
February 26, 2009
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