Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Commission reverses denial in toxic exposure case

Franken v Honeywell dba Bendix Corp.,
2016 MO WCLR Lexis 75
Nov. 10, 2016. 

The commission reversed a denial of benefits, and found the death causally related on  medical evidence which established exposure to chemical agents without clarification regarding scientifically accepted levels to cause injury based on magnitude, frequency or duration. 

While treating for cancer  at Anderson claimant took a dose of methadone in his hotel room, had an adverse allergic reaction, and went into septic shock resulting in organ failure resulting in death from organ failure and respiratory distress in 2005.  An autopsy identified a small cell carcinoma in his lung.

Claimant worked in the meterology department at Honeywell.  The ALJ found no evidence of toxic exposure,   The defense expert found flawed methodology and no epidemiology or experimental studies which showed a link of bellyrium and claimant's cancer. The Commission  concluded it was undisputed that claimant had some exposure and that was enough without having to show some exposure was a scientifically proved toxic exposure. 

The first time any expert made a connection between exposure and his death was several months after claimant had died. The court found under pre-reform law there was no statutory duty to provide notice in an occupational disease case.    Dr. Parmet, claimant's expert, had previously developed a bellyrium awareness program for the defendant. .  He found the death likely due to exposure of multiple dangerous chemicals and not solely to bellyrium.

The commission found that specific omission of evidence of the magnitude, frequency and duration was too rigorous burden of proof and was "over-arching" and contrary to law.  The commission found the type of cancer was not an ordinary disease of life because it was rare and that experts established some exposure to various chemical agents as the likely cause of a carcinoma. 

The commission ordered equal shares to the surviving spouse and two grandchildren, who were total dependents by guardianship dating back to 2005.