Presenting the Occupational disability case: Trial proofs

Two cases decided in February 2007 examined the proofs in an occupational-disability case.

Credibility is King . . . Patel v. Federated Logistics, App. Div. February 7, 2007 (not approved for publication)

Petitioner Yogina Patel claimed that exposure to “dust, fumes, pulmonary irritants, bending, lifting and repeated manipulations” while working for three years as a checker in a dusty warehouse caused her to become permanently disabled.

During a full trial, the claimant presented the testimony of her physicians, who testified that the petitioner suffered from “inflammation of the soft tissues of the muscles” and “chronic bronchitis.”

The employer presented the testimony of its Human Resources manager, who disputed the claimant’s descriptions of the premises and her claims that the warehouse was “dusty.”

The Judge of Compensation dismissed the case, finding that the claimant’s description of the warehouse was not true and her complaints were therefore not credible.

Practice tip: In defending occupational disease claims, the testimony of an employer-representative to dispute specific facts asserted by the claimant may be powerful evidence for the defense.

. . . Objective Medical Evidence- Larsen v. City of East Orange, App. Div., February 13, 2007 (not approved for publication)

East Orange firefighter Kenneth Larsen brought a claim for occupational exposures to asbestos resulting in colon cancer and pulmonary disabilities which he alleged were related to his employment.
Both parties retained experts. During the trial, respondent’s expert admitted that he could “not rule out” the claimant’s workplace exposures as a possible cause of the Larsen’s cancer and disability.

There was no dispute that the claimant worked in a facility with “free asbestos” present.

Based upon the lack of disagreement between the experts and the presence of the admittedly cancer-causing substance in the workplace, the Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the Judge of Compensation finding a causal relationship between the cancer and the work exposures.

Greg Lois is the managing partner of LOIS LLC, a 21-attorney law firm dedicated to defending employers and carriers in New York and New Jersey workers' compensation claims. Greg is the author of a popular series of "Handbooks" on workers' compensation, and is the co-author of the 2016 & 2017 Lexis-Nexis New Jersey Workers' Compensation Practice Guide. Greg can be reached at 201-880-7213 or glois@lois-llc.com