Watkins v. L3 Communications, No. 2010-CA-000383-WC (Ky. Ct. App. 07/23/10, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Kentucky Court of Appeals held that a mechanic failed to prove a causal link between his use of chemicals at work and his symptoms, so he was not entitled to benefits.
What it means: To prove causation in a chemical exposure case, a worker must establish that the solvent exposure was the cause of his impairment within a reasonable medical probability. The speculation or mere possibility that the chemical exposure caused the disability is insufficient to impose liability.
Summary: An aircraft mechanic used various solvents at work to clean helicopter parts. He claimed that his contact with the solvents caused cognitive problems, peripheral neuropathies, respiratory problems, anxiety and depression. The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that the mechanic was not entitled to disability benefits because he did not prove a causal relationship between his use of solvents at work and his cognitive difficulties.
Although the mechanic argued that a university evaluator's opinion established a causal link between his chemical exposure and his symptoms, the court noted that the evaluator's report stated that the cause of the mechanic's issues was unknown and that there was "no way to prove that his work exposure caused his mild cognitive impairment."
The court mentioned that the administrative law judge relied on evidence from the results of scientific tests conducted on the solvents. The tests found acceptable levels of chemicals and metals in the solvents. The evaluator testified that scientific test results would be important in determining the origin of the mechanic's symptoms. Additionally, a toxicologist who reviewed the test results found that the mechanic's symptoms were too broad to attribute them to chemical exposure. The court also noted that the mechanic did not object to the test results being entered into evidence.
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October 14, 2010
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