Given the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission’s (LIRC) longstanding trend towards denying any claim for workers’ compensation that it can, a recent affirmation of an administrative law judge’s grant of temporary total disability and survivor benefits comes as a surprise. The specific facts of the case offered an opportunity for the LIRC to deny the claim, but it chose not to.
Diesel Mechanic Dies from Exposure to Toxic Fumes
The case, French v. Bill’s Truck Repair, et al, is another tragic case of employers doing the bare minimum when it comes to worker safety.
The victim had been a truck mechanic for 35 years at three different employers. For most of his working life, though, he was in large garages with no ventilation for the toxic diesel exhaust fumes. That exposure led to him developing the lung cancer and suffering the strokes that would quickly take his life.
The timeline, however, is important.
In September, 2014, the worker began to experience leg pain. He was diagnosed with blood clots in his legs and went back to work. On September 30, he went back to the doctor, complaining of memory problems and trouble controlling his emotions. He was diagnosed with anxiety and went back to work. The next day, October 1, he tried to clock in to work but could not remember how. After managing it, he worked for four hours before going to the emergency room. He had had a stroke.
Within the next week, he had two more strokes and had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Within a year, he had died of subsequent strokes, which had been caused by the cancer.
His wife pursued a workers’ compensation claim for disability benefits and survivor benefits, but quickly ran into a complication: At 12:01am on October 1, the victim’s employer had a new workers’ compensation insurer.
LIRC Applies Last Exposure Rule: Affirms Award
The employer’s brand new insurer claimed that it should not be held liable for the significant workers’ compensation demand because its policy had only been in effect for four of the hours during which the victim was exposed to diesel fumes. It argued that the worker had started to feel the ill effects of his exposure in the days before its policy took over. Therefore, it should not be the ones to pay.
Surprisingly, the LIRC did not take this opportunity to deny the workers’ compensation benefits. Instead, it pointed out that workplace injuries from exposure only become compensable when they become disabling, and that the employer responsible for the last exposure is liable for all of the injuries from that stem from the occupational disease.
The victim was not disabled until October 1, and even though the new workers’ comp insurer was only four hours into its policy, that was when the last exposure happened.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office Serve Western Missouri
If you or a loved one has been hurt on the job, you deserve workers’ compensation. The personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office can help. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373 for legal representation in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, or the rest of western Missouri.