Case Law Update I Little v. WCAB (Pa. Cmwlth. 1401 C.D. 2014, filed March 25, 2015) I PA Work Injury

March 26, 2015

Written by our expert brief writer, Attorney Susan Nanes

 

Claimant, a licensed registered nurse, was exposed to Di-Isocyanate, a chemical component of  floor wax used by Employer, where she had worked for four years.  She had no history of respiratory problems, but in 2010, she suffered three episodes of breathing difficulties, sneezing, and coughing, which required trips to the ER for treatment.  She missed several days of work the first, about three weeks the second time, and did not return to work for Employer after the third on August 4, 2010.  Claimant presented medical expert evidence that she developed asthma from her occupational exposure to the Di-Isocyanate, which is not uncommon.

 

WCJ awarded TTD for the days Claimant missed for the first two incidents and from August 4, 2010 (the third incident) through November 10, 2010, when she began working part-time at another hospital that did not use a product with Di-Isocyanate; she earned less money at that job.  WCJ awarded TPD from November 10 through February 23, 2011, crediting IME doctor who agreed that the exposure caused Claimant’s asthma, but stated that she fully recovered.  WCAB affirmed.

 

Cmwlth. Ct.: Reverse & remand.  Even if symptoms resolve when claimant is no longer exposed at work to a dangerous component, such as lead, ongoing benefits are warranted if claimant experiences ongoing sensitivity.  Baxter (Pa. 1998) (discussing Farquhar (thrombosis) and Lash (lead poisoning).  Here, Claimant’s years of cumulative occupational exposure to Di-Isocyanate caused her asthma.  Her symptoms resolved when exposure ceased, but she has ongoing sensitivity and further exposure would risk recurrence and potentially worse attacks: “[T]hese are residual medical conditions that Claimant did not have prior to her employment with Employer.”  WCJ erred in terminating benefits; remand to WCJ to consider award of additional benefits.  WCJ also must rule on record re: Employer objection to admission of Claimant’s medical reports, which was not addressed in WCJ decision and order.

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