North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Denial of Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Multi-Employer COPD Injury Claim

There several steps involved in a North Carolina workers’ compensation claim that a claimant must complete before receiving an award of benefits and reimbursement for medical expenses.  For example, the reviewing judge will scrutinize all medical evidence that the parties present and determine whether your injury is the direct result of your work duties. As dedicated work injury lawyers, the attorneys at Maurer Law understand how important it is to abide by all applicable procedural rules and to present your claim in the most favorable manner possible.

In a recent appellate opinion, the court considered whether a lower court made an appropriate determination regarding whether a welder’s lung disease was the direct result of his job duties and functions. The man’s welding job required him to perform a type of welding that produced large volumes of smoke and fumes. In 2009, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary impairment. His doctor told him that the condition was caused by or contributed to his employment and welding activities. He was awarded social security benefits starting in May 2010.

Next, the man went to work for a temporary staffing agency and spent 80% of his time working each day. His assignment lasted 18 days over a one-month period. In January 2011, the worker filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits and named several of his prior employers regarding his COPD. All but the temporary staffing agency entered into a settlement with the man.

The administrative law judge assigned to the man’s claim against the staffing agency denied his request for benefits and the Commission affirmed this decision on appeal. The man appealed again arguing that the Commission relied on incompetent evidence in determining that the smoke and fumes from welding did not cause or contribute to his COPD, suggesting that the testifying expert later recanted this testimony.

The appellate court reviewed the record and found that the expert did not contradict or recant this testimony. In fact, the lower court provided nine pages of findings and each finding was supported by competent evidence that was introduced during the hearing. It also noted that the Commission has the discretion to make findings of fact and that the reviewing appellate court will not disturb these findings if there is competent evidence to support the lower court’ s findings. Also, the Commission is not required to make a finding regarding every item of evidence that is introduced at a hearing. Because the administrative law judge and Commission relied on sufficient evidence in finding that the man’s welding activities were not caused by welding fumes or smoke, the appellate court affirmed the denial of his claim.

If you were hurt on the job, there are several steps that you should take to preserve your right to workers’ compensation benefits and to ensure that you will be able to establish any existing link between your injury and your job duties. Our team of legal professionals understands how daunting this can be, which is why we offer a free consultation to help you understand the process and how we can help you receive the just outcome that you deserve. To schedule your appointment, call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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