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Workers' Compensation

Washington: Firefighter’s Valley Fever Not Compensable as a Respiratory Disease







A Tacoma firefighter, who contended that he had contracted valley fever after inhaling fungal spores while responding to emergency calls on Interstate 5 in Washington state—he alleged the spores were transported by vehicles traveling north from California—is not entitled to the firefighters presumption related to respiratory diseases contained in Wash. Rev. Code § 51.21.185(1), held the Supreme Court of Washington, in a split decision. Valley fever is a fungal infection endemic to the desert southwest, including Nevada and especially California’s San Joaquin Valley. The firefighter fell ill shortly after returning from a trip to Las Vegas. He contended that he had acquired a “respiratory disease” and that the statutory presumption favoring firefighters required the employer to show some cause other than the employment. The majority disagreed, indicating the legislature had intended that the presumption cover respiratory diseases caused by exposure to smoke, fumes, and chemicals—hazards pervasive in fighting fires. The majority reasoned that smoke, fumes and chemicals did not cause valley fever.

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. Bracketed citations link to

See Gorre v. City of Tacoma, 2015 Wash. LEXIS 898 (Aug. 27, 2015) [2015 Wash. LEXIS 898 (Aug. 27, 2015)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 52.07 [52.07]

For a more detailed discussion of the case, see

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.









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