Is Parkinson’s an Occupational Disease? W. Va. Top Court Says, ‘No’ for Paint Tech

08 May, 2024 Frank Ferreri


Huntington, WV ( -- To establish compensability in West Virginia and other states, a worker must first establish that he developed a condition as a result of work.

And as Gwinn v. Lewis Chevrolet Company, No. 22-629 (W.Va. 05/07/24) explained in addressing a worker's alleged Parkinson's Disease, the worker must first establish that he had a condition at all.

A paint technician for an automobile dealership filed a workers' compensation claim, alleging that he developed Parkinson's Disease because of his employment. Allegedly, the Parkinson's developed due to the technician's exposure to paints, solvents, primers, and various chemicals during his employment.

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An independent medical evaluation concluded with the administering physician reporting, "I do not believe the evidence supports to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that this man has developed Parkinson[’s] disease or other neurological disorder as a result of his past occupational exposures as an automotive paint technician.”

However, another physician concluded that the technician's exposure to solvents was a contributing factor to the development of his condition and opined that the linkage to Parkinson's Disease is strongest for tricholorethylene exposure.

The technician also submitted into evidence a Ph.D.'s article indicating that pesticides, metals, and industrial solvents could increase the risk for Parkinson's Disease.

The Office of Judges found that the technician did not establish that his Parkinson's Disease was work related. The Board of Review affirmed, prompting the technician to appeal to the West Virginia Supreme Court on the issue of compensability.

To establish compensability in West Virginia, an employee who suffers a disability in the course of his employment must show by competent evidence that there was a causal connection between such disability and the employee’s employment.

A disease is considered to have been incurred in the course of or to have resulted from employment only if:

(1) There is a direct causal connection between the conditions under which work is performed and the occupational disease.
(2) It can be seen to have followed as a natural incident of the work as a result of the exposure occasioned by the nature of the employment.
(3) It can be fairly traced to the employment as the proximate caue.
(4) It does not come from a hazard to which workers would have been equally exposed outside of the employment.
(5) It is incidental to the character of the business and not independent of the relation of employer and employee.
(6) It appears to have had its origin in a risk connected with the employment and to have flowed from that source as a natural consequence.

In considering the technician's case, the court sided with the Office of Judges and the Board of Review, finding that the technician's evidence wasn't enough to demonstrate that he even had a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease.

The court cited one of the doctors who conducted a neuropsychological examination and a review of the medical literature to conclude that the condition was not supported by the evidence in the technician's claim.

"The substantial evidence of record supports the decision of the Board of Review that [the technician] failed to offer sufficient proof to establish a statutorily acceptable diagnosis of PD within the meaning of [West Virigina] law," the court wrote in affirming the prior rulings.

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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