Chappell v. Pfizer, Inc., et al., No. AC 29442 (Conn. App. Ct. 07/21/09).
The Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the finding that a worker with asthma had a compensable occupational disease.
What it means: In Connecticut, the requirement that an occupational disease be "peculiar to the occupation and in excess of the ordinary hazards of employment" refers to those diseases in which there is a causal connection between the duties of employment and the disease contracted by the employee.
A former chemical operator in Pfizer Inc.'s fermentation department alleged his exposure to organic molds, airborne waste, and residues of the fermentation process caused his asthma. The company conceded that the operator's asthma was a compensable condition that arose out of and in the course of his employment but argued that it was caused by repetitive trauma and was not an occupational disease. The company asserted the operator's claim was therefore barred by the one-year statute of limitations and he should not be afforded the extended three years to file a notice of his claim. It argued that the asthma was not proximately caused by his employment and that his employment did not incorporate an increased risk of asthma. The court rejected the company's arguments. It noted the specific duties increased his exposure to the airborne substances that caused asthma. The court explained those duties are not common occurrences in most of the working world and were so distinctively associated with the operator's occupation that there was a direct causal connection between his duties and the disease.
The court explained that the company improperly focused on the prevalence of the disease rather than the causal connection between the employment duties and the disease. While employed in the fermentation department, the operator was exposed to raw organic materials used in the manufacture of antibiotics and the vaporized waste from the organic materials. The court noted in his 15 years of employment, the operator was routinely exposed to airborne organic antigens, including blood meal and ground up chicken parts, and was not required to wear protective respiratory gear when cleaning the waste and residue from the tanks.
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September 16, 2009
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