Worker fails to link leukemia with work-related benzene exposure
Case name: Scearce v. Chemtek, Inc., No. COA12-345 (N.C. Ct. App. 11/06/12).
Ruling: The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that a worker did not demonstrate that his exposure to benzene caused or significantly contributed to the development of his leukemia.
What it means: In North Carolina, in order to prove the existence of an occupational disease, a worker must show a causal connection between the disease and the employment.
Summary: A maintenance worker alleged that he was exposed to benzene during his employment for a company that manufactured a product designed to protected airport runways. The component parts for the product did not list benzene as an ingredient. One week after the worker left his employment with the company, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He claimed that his exposure to benzene caused or significantly contributed to the development of his disease. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that he was not entitled to benefits.
The court said that the type of leukemia the worker had involved an inversion of a chromosome. He smoked cigarettes and was exposed to secondhand smoke. His doctor noted that cigarette smoking was responsible for more than half of leukemia cases. The worker also repaired and restored automobiles as a hobby and used mineral spirits and brake cleaner.
The court also pointed out that the worker sued two of his previous employers, alleging that his exposure to gasoline and toluene caused him to develop leukemia. Further, the company's chemist determined that the product and its component parts did not contain benzene. The worker's doctor indicated that the way in which benzene caused leukemia was not fully known. The doctor acknowledged that the vast majority of individuals who are exposed to benzene do not develop leukemia.
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February 18, 2013
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