History of smoking evaporates chronic obstructive pulmonary disease claim
Case name: Serratos v. Tyson Foods, No. 2-103/11-1186 (Iowa Ct. App. 04/25/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Iowa Court of Appeals held that a worker did not prove he suffered a compensable occupational disease.
What it means: In Iowa, for a worker to be entitled to workers' compensation benefits for an occupational disease, he must show that his occupational disease was causally related to harmful conditions in his field of employment and those harmful conditions were more prevalent in his employment than in everyday life or in other occupations.
Summary: A worker at a meat packing plant asserted that a cleaning crew left chemical residue on the machines he touched, which irritated his breathing. He said that water vapor and fumes from animal parts also bothered him. The worker had smoked one to three packs a day for 40 years. After having difficulty breathing, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Two years later, the worker quit smoking. Over the next nine years, he had COPD attacks and sought treatment. Some attacks occurred on the job, and doctors would restrict him from working intermittently. He alleged that he sustained an occupational disease. The Iowa Court of Appeals held that the worker did not sustain a compensable occupational disease.
The court said that the worker did not show that his disability was causally related to his employment or that the condition was more prevalent in his employment than in other occupations. The evidence on causation conflicted. The court also noted that an independent medical examiner said that COPD is prevalent in the general community, especially among smokers. No evidence showed that the worker's coworkers suffered from COPD.
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July 12, 2012
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