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Reiterating that the burden is upon the claimant to establish—by competent medical evidence—a causal connection between the employment and the claimed disability, a New York appellate court affirmed a determination by the full Board (in a majority decision) that denied workers’ compensation benefits to a claimant, who worked for some 24 years as a firefighter and medical technician for the City of Plattsburgh, and who was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 51. The Court acknowledged that a claimant need not provide medical opinions expressed with absolute or reasonable medical certainty. On the other hand, such opinions had to be more than mere speculation. The claimant presented a report from a board-certified occupational disease specialist, who opined that claimant was likely exposed to a wide range of materials in the course of fighting fires and that notwithstanding other plausible risk factors such as claimant’s age, claimant’s prostate cancer was likely caused by cumulative exposure to carcinogenic materials during his work as a firefighter. That opinion was controverted by an expert offered by the employer, who reported that the epidemiological studies linking firefighting and certain types of cancer failed to adequately examine environmental and demographic factors that would affect the risk of cancer. A third specialist, this one appointed by the full Board, indicated claimant’s employment may have had a causal relationship to the development of the cancer, but otherwise indicated he was not familiar with other risks in claimant’s life that could also have had a connection. The appellate court concluded that the full Board acted within its discretion in characterizing as speculative and ultimately rejecting the reports of claimant’s expert and the third specialist.
Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is the co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).
LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance.
See Matter of Tucker v. City of Plattsburgh Fire Dept., 2017 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 5954 (Aug. 3, 2017)
See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 128.02.
Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law