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Workers' Compensation

Missouri: No Benefits for Alleged Fume Exposure

Claimant lost his claim against the second injury fund when he failed to prove an accident that his alleged exposure to muriatic acid fumes caused a heart attack.  Poarch v Treasurer of the State of Missouri, 2012 Mo. App. Lexis 592 (May 1, 2012).   The court rejected an argument that the commission must award benefits because the Fund did not produce any evidence. Claimant must prove all elements of his case, including accident. 

"The Fund chose not to present any evidence and rely on the possibility that the Commission would find that Poarch failed to meet his burden of proving that an accident occurred. Nothing in section 287.808 required the Fund to present evidence to refute Poarch's testimony." The Fund must offer its own evidence only if it asserts an affirmative defense. 

The findings of ALJ Cain were adopted by the Commission.  Poarch's "whole case was based on his uneducated self-diagnosis or determination that he was exposed to some substance for which he offered no credible proof that he was in fact exposed or that the substance was toxic. The ALJ further noted that Poarch had no expertise in identifying muriatic acid and that Poarch, who was not a doctor, only offered his self-diagnosis as proof that he sustained a heart attack on May 18, 2006."

Claimant alleged he choked and had a subsequent heart attack after he inhaled noxious fumes while spraying an apartment bathroom to remove mold. He was a retired fire fighter and  worked for his wife’s apartment complex at the time and did not have a salary or employer health insurance.  The claimant’s expert attributed claimant’s symptoms to breathing muriatic acid without protective equipment. The Commission denied benefits and found claimant failed to prove accident, in Poarch v Madison Apartments, 2011 Mo. WCLR Lexis 169 (August 2 2011). The administrative law judge concluded claimant failed to prove that claimant sprayed muriatic acid in his unmarked bottle or that the concentration reached a toxic level. Claimant denied immediate symptoms, delayed treatment for several weeks and had a history of a prior heart surgery. The employer settled the case before the hearing.

Source: Martin Klug, Huck, Howe & Tobin. Read Martin Klug's Mo. Workers' Comp Alerts.

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