Medical Opinions Clear Up Debate on Whether Coal Mining Damaged Worker's Lungs

                               

Springfield, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Even when a disease seems a typical result of a particular occupation, it’s usually the medical records that have the final say.

The coal miner with cardiovascular issues in Jackson v. Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission, No. 4-21-0496WC (Ill. App. Ct. 10/12/22), and his wife, unsuccessfully argued that he had an occupational disease as a result of the job.

The miner filed a worker’s compensation claim based on an occupational disease. Not surprisingly, he asserted that his injuries included coal workers' pneumoconiosis (CWP) and/or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He claimed these resulted from exposure to coal dust and other materials during his employment.

After the miner passed away, his wife continued with his claim, and added a claim that her husband’s occupational disease caused his death.

An arbitrator subsequently found that the claimant failed to prove that the miner had suffered from an occupational disease at all or that his conditions of ill-being prior to his death were causally related to his coal mining job. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission.

The court of appeals noted that a claimant has the burden of proving that he suffers from an occupational disease and that a causal connection exists between the disease and his employment.

On appeal, the court found that the claimant failed to clear the first hurdle. It pointed to the medical evidence as clearly supporting the Commission’s decision.

The court noted that during the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator denied the claimant's request to admit the expert report and deposition testimony of her husband’s doctor. But even without that report and opinion testimony, there was ample evidence to support the Commission's finding that the claimant failed to show her husband had CWP, COPD, or any other occupational disease, the court held.

The court pointed out that four board certified radiologists and b-readers reviewed x-ray films of the miner’s lungs, and each said he did not have CWP.

“When considered as a whole, the claimant's medical records do not support the existence of any occupational disease, and there was much evidence supporting the opposite conclusion,” the court wrote.To take just one example, the court stated, an expert pulmonologist opined that the miner did not have CWP or COPD and that his mild respiratory issues were the result of cardiovascular problems, not any occupational lung disease.

The court affirmed the Commission’s decision that the miner did not establish that he had an occupational disease.

Get full-text opinions, statutes, regulations, the latest compliance info, and more from 53 U.S. jurisdictions, including Illinois, on WorkCompResearch.

 

 


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