Case name: Watkins v. L3 Communications, No. 2010-SC-000551-WC (Ky. 05/19/11, unpublished).
In an unpublished decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court held that a mechanic was not entitled to benefits because he failed to establish causation between his work and his alleged injuries.
What it means: In Kentucky, a worker cannot collect benefits without showing a causal relationship between his work and his injuries.
Summary: An aircraft mechanic's job involved disassembling rotor heads and cleaning the parts in a solvent washer. He claimed that his work-related exposure to various solvents caused peripheral neuropathy, as well as cognitive, respiratory, and psychological difficulties. There was conflicting evidence as to the nature and duration of the mechanic's exposure to solvents. One doctor noted the mechanic's history of sleep apnea and congestive heart failure and said the inhalation of solvents generally does not cause acute respiratory difficulties. A second doctor said the solvents were the most likely cause of the mechanic's symptoms. The Kentucky Supreme Court held that the mechanic was not entitled to benefits because he failed to show a causal relationship between his exposure to workplace chemicals and his alleged physical and mental injuries.
The mechanic asserted that the second doctor's opinion established a causal relationship between his work-related solvent exposure and his cognitive impairment. The court said that the doctor reported that a causal relationship was "impossible to prove, but solvents are well known to be neurotoxic." He also said he did not know what was causing the mechanic's symptoms.
The court also mentioned other potential causes for the mechanic's symptoms. There was no evidence of a pulmonary impairment. Also, air quality and toxicity tests performed in the workplace showed safe levels. The court noted that the medical evidence indicated that many of the mechanic's symptoms were known to result from a combination of alcohol, which he ingested daily, and one of his medications.
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June 23, 2011
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