Coordinator can't prove causation showing permanent total disability
Case name: Chriestenson v. Russell Stover Candies, No. 104,412 (Kan. Ct. App. 09/09/11).
Ruling: The Kansas Court of Appeals held that a coordinator did not suffer a permanent and total disability arising out of or caused by her employment.
What it means: In Kansas, a worker has the burden of showing a causal connection between her chemical sensitivity and her employment.
Summary: A plant nurse, safety coordinator, and workers' compensation benefits coordinator for a candy company was diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity 11 years before she went to work for the company. Her office at the company was located across the hall from a laundry facility, and she claimed that she could smell bleach in her office, resulting in respiratory problems and increasing headaches. She claimed she was also exposed to fumes from a room where nuts were fumigated, pesticides, truck exhaust, paint, and ammonia during her employment. She claimed that her last chemical exposure at the company occurred when the floor to her office was stripped and waxed. She sought benefits. The Kansas Court of Appeals held that she did not suffer a permanent and total disability arising out of or caused by her employment.
The court pointed out that the coordinator's doctors did not agree on the issue of whether her exposure to chemical fumes during her employment caused a permanent injury or impairment. The court said a chemical sensitivity diagnosis is a "controversial diagnosis."
The court said it was not persuaded by one doctor's opinion because the doctor saw the coordinator seven years after her employment with the company ended. Although the doctor opined that the concentrations of chemicals at the company were high enough to cause symptoms, the court said the testimony was not helpful in establishing a causal connection.
The company acknowledged that there was a period of time for which the coordinator was entitled to temporary workers' compensation benefits for the aggravation of her preexisting chemical sensitivity. The court sent the case back to determine the amount of benefits the coordinator was entitled to.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 17, 2011
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