Case name: Con Edison, 109 NYWCLR 50 (N.Y.W.C.B. Panel 2008).
A New York Workers' Compensation Board panel reversed a finding that a machinist's work-related asbestos exposure did not contribute to the development of his esophageal cancer. The board awarded death benefits to the surviving spouse.
What it means: In a claim for work-related death benefits, when there are conflicting medical opinions as to the major contributing cause of a worker's death, a workers' compensation panel can weigh the medical experts' opinions and is entitled to find one doctor's opinion more credible.
Summary: A machinist, who had worked for the employer for 21 years and was exposed to asbestos dust during his employment, died from cancer. He was diagnosed with occupationally-related asbestosis and asbestos-related pleural disease. His surviving spouse filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits, alleging he had died as a consequence of the asbestos exposure. In awarding benefits, the panel relied on the testimony of the claimant's consulting doctor, who opined that the asbestos exposure contributed to the machinist's development of esophageal cancer, which caused his death.
Based on research he had conducted and the machinist's medical records, the employer's doctor opined there was no causal link between asbestos exposure and esophageal cancer and hence the machinist's death was unrelated to his employment. The employer's doctor pointed out that according to medical research, it is very rare to link esophageal cancer to asbestos exposure.The machinist's doctor, who had examined the machinist and also reviewed the medical records, linked the machinist's preexisting health conditions to his exposure to the asbestos over a long period of time and determined the cause of death was related to his employment.
The panel found the machinist's doctor's testimony more credible and supported by medical studies. Therefore, the panel concluded that the machinist's death was related, at least in part, to his occupational asbestos exposure. The panel reversed the workers' compensation judge's decision and awarded the spouse death benefits.
June 1, 2009
Copyright 2009© LRP Publications