Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Working conditions blamed for worker's cancer

A workers' compensation claim had been filed by a steel worker against Severstal Wheeling, Inc. (formerly Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.). It is purported that the worker contracted bladder cancer while working for his employer, and the workers' compensation claim for this individual has since been upheld.

The worker's employer originally denied the claim because of a "lack of causal relationship," but both the workers' compensation board and the court disagreed. It had been ruled that the worker's exposure to and inhalation of coal tar pitch and coal tar on the job caused the cancer.

The problem was likely compounded because of safety measures not being followed. A gas blanketing system at the plant was often not operating properly, and maintenance and repair of this system was often ineffective. A toxicologist also ruled that coke oven emissions of the type the worker was likely exposed to are associated with bladder cancer.

Workers' compensation claims are often complicated in nature because such claims deal with a specific set of laws, workplace conditions, and medical prognosis. Because of this, it is generally a good idea for workers to consult with a workers' compensation attorney before going ahead and filing a claim.

This particular workers' compensation case was interesting because of the defense presented by the steel company. The company stated that everything in theory was supposed to have prevented this injury from occurring. However, the court and the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) both pointed out that reality is often different from theory.

When employers are willing to argue theory in the face of the illnesses and injuries that workers often suffer, it's easy to understand why such lawsuits are in place.

Source: The State Journal, "Supreme Court upholds claim of cancer caused by workplace exposure," Oct. 2, 2012

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