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The Commission reversed an award for future medical benefits to a pig farm worker with Legionnaire’s Disease who lapsed into a coma and spent 6 weeks unconscious. Navis v Premium Standard Farms, 2013 MOWCLR Lexis 128 (lexis.com), 2013 MOWCLR Lexis 128 (Lexis Advance) (July 18, 2013).
Navis in 2002 worked around pigs and lots of them. She worked 6 years in Mercer County, Missouri for Premium Standard Farms and spent most of her day power washing the barns. The barns processed up to 18 million pigs a year and 110,000 sows. “She said that when she sprayed the barns, the hog manure and afterbirth would splatter on her and she would be covered by the hog waste material. There were puddles of left-over water that she sprayed into, as well as the puddles of hog urine and manure. If it rained and water came in through windows, water would sit there; it smelled terrible.”
Navis was awarded 50% PPD against the employer for her pneumonia but she failed to show once her pneumonia resolved that any future medical needs flowed from any exposure to work. The Commission affirmed a finding of 50% pre-existing disability from COPD, and found the worker not credible when she denied she had prior symptoms. The ALJ indicated claimant may have denied prior symptoms and did not know “if the claimant is mistaken or if she is not being truthful and afraid she would not receive compensation due to the current financial condition of the Second Injury Fund.” The ALJ the Commission rejected a claim for psychiatric disability but concluded claimant was unemployable in the open labor market and awarded total benefits against the Second injury Fund. The employer asserted that water hoses were heated, filtered and chlorinated to prevent such an exposure, although the experts lacked specific data or samples to bolster their opinions.
A dissenting commissioner felt Navis failed to show work was a substantial factor, and considered claimant had other more likely risk factors from lifestyle choices to smoke 2 packs a day and to drink up to 10 beers a day.
Source: Martin Klug, Huck, Howe & Tobin. Read Martin Klug’s Mo. Workers’ Comp Alerts.
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