He underwent extensive treatment, including chemotherapy and multiple surgeries.
The foreman identified numerous chemicals to which he had been exposed while working, including benzene, trichloroethylene, cadmium, nickel and platinum. He added that he was exposed to fumes and plastic dust particles in the air. He also claimed that the manufacturer failed to provide proper ventilation for much of the time he was employed. The foreman and a coworker said that they did not wear respiratory protection while working. The foreman pointed out that his former supervisor died from cancer.
The manufacturer's production supervisor said he never conducted respiratory testing in the plant to detect chemicals or tests to determine the effect of chemicals on the skin. The manufacturer did not produce field studies or lab results indicating the level of hazardous chemicals during the time the foreman worked in the battery cell area.
The foreman's treating oncologist and a medical professor opined that the foreman's exposure to chemicals at work was the cause of his cancer. Another physician disputed that the foreman's cancer was caused by a chemical exposure at the workplace.
The foreman sought workers' compensation benefits for an occupational disease. The administrative law judge found the foreman was entitled to unpaid medical expenses and permanent and total disability benefits. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission affirmed the award.
Was the commission correct in awarding the foreman benefits?
A. Yes. The foreman established that there was an exposure to the disease which was greater than, or different from, that which affected the general public.
The medical opinions differed on whether the foreman's work-related chemical exposure caused his cancer.
C. No. The foreman did not establish a link between his cancer and the distinctive features of his job.
How the court ruled: A. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the foreman was entitled to benefits for his occupational disease. Moreland v. Eagle Pitcher
Technologies, LLC, No. SD31692 (Mo. Ct. App. 03/21/12).
The court said that the foreman's and coworker's testimony established that he was exposed to the disease which was greater than, or different from, that which affected the general public. He explained that he was exposed to chemicals and fumes. There was also poor ventilation and cross-contamination of fumes from various work areas.
B is incorrect. The court said that the foreman showed that his work exposure caused his disease. The court said a single medical opinion can support a finding of compensability. The one differing medical opinion did not change the result.
C is incorrect. The court found a recognizable link between the cancer and the foreman's job duties, which were common to all jobs of that sort. He was exposed to toxic chemical and fumes at work. Also, his former supervisor died from cancer.
Editor's note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.
May 10, 2012
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