Firefighter must show general causal link to prove occupational disease
Case name: Hahn v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, No. CA-IC 09-0054 (Ariz. Ct. App. 05/03/11).
Ruling: The Arizona Court of Appeals held that a firefighter was not entitled to benefits for his colon cancer.
What it means:
In Arizona, a firefighter has a burden of proving that a carcinogen is reasonably related to his cancer for the cancer to be a compensable occupational disease.
Summary: A firefighter for a city was assigned to hazardous duty and repeatedly exposed to toxins. He was diagnosed with colon cancer. He had a family history of rectal and colon cancer and early discovery of pre-cancerous polyps. He submitted a claim for workers' compensation benefits, which the city denied. The firefighter asserted that his colon cancer was a compensable industrial injury. The Arizona Court of Appeals held that the firefighter was not entitled to benefits because he did not show a causal link between the carcinogen and his cancer.
The firefighter argued that he was entitled to a presumption that his colon cancer was an occupational disease. The court explained that firefighters have a lesser burden for proving an occupational disease under a state law, but he must show a causal link between the carcinogen and the cancer. The court said the statute was unambiguous and due to the lesser burden of proof, no absurd results would occur by applying the plain meaning of the statute.
The firefighter argued that requiring a claimant to show a causal link was contrary to legislative intent. Construing the statute, the court disagreed and explained that a firefighter does not have to prove a direct causal connection or proximate cause. He only needed to show a general causal link. Here, the firefighter could not qualify for the presumption of an occupational disease without bringing evidence that one of the carcinogens he was exposed to during his hazardous duty was reasonably related to his colon cancer.
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June 13, 2011
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