Lipsitz & Ponterio recently obtained workers’ compensation benefits for a widow whose husband was employed as a service manager at a local commercial equipment company for 24 years. The company manufactured chemicals used in the construction of tennis courts. While at work, he was exposed to benzene, which is found in xylene and coal tar. As a result of this exposure, he developed and ultimately died of multiple myeloma at the age of 52.
This case was assigned to a state administrative law judge, who concluded that the evidence was insufficient to establish a causal link between multiple myeloma and his occupational exposure. Even though the widow produced medical opinions demonstrating the link between benzene exposure and multiple myeloma, the judge required absolute proof that this exposure caused the decedent’s multiple myeloma.
We argued that the legal standard the judge applied as absolute proof was incorrect and not necessary to establish a causal relationship under the Workers’ Compensation Law. If the evidence establishes that it is more likely than not that the decedent’s workplace exposure is linked to the decedent’s disease, then the widow should be entitled to benefits.
Lipsitz & Ponterio appealed the administrative law judge’s decision to the Workers' Compensation Board, which reversed the judge’s order. The Board agreed with our theory and understanding of the burden of proving medical causation in this occupational disease and death case.
While this case was strongly opposed by the compensation insurance carrier, we successfully established a causal relationship between the decedent’s exposure to the chemicals he worked with and his development of multiple myeloma. As a result, the widow received a lump sum (Section 32) payment.