Adamson v. Municipality of Anchorage and Novapro Risk Solutions: Work-Related Cancer and Firefighters

Adamson v. Municipality of Anchorage and Novapro Risk Solutions, and the State of Alaska, involved a firefighter (“Claimant”) who had worked for the municipal government for more than 30 years.

711356_firefighter.jpgWhen Claimant was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he filed a workers’ compensation claim. The city (“Employer”) filed a challenge to his claim on grounds that there was not evidence that the cancer was a workplace injury or illness. Employer included with the challenge a letter from Claimant’s physician that stated that he had evidence that the cancer was related to his work as a firefighter.

Claimant was seeking workers’ compensation under a Temporary Total Disability Rating (TTD) and was seeking coverage of his medical expenses. As your Asheville attorneys who represent workers injured on the job can explain, workers’ compensation benefits are often determined by the claimant’s disability rating.

In Adamson, Claimant was relying on a statute that provided that prostate cancer could be considered a workplace injury for a firefighter who did now show any evidence of the disease during his or her qualifying examination at the time of hire, received a complete physical for each of the first seven years on the job, and was exposed to a substance classified as a known carcinogen by an international cancer research agency.

Employer hired an expert to establish whether Claimant was exposed to a known carcinogen, and, according to that expert, while firefighters are routinely exposed to cancer causing agents, no research has linked these substances to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.

Employer then filed another notice of controversion to the claim, based on this opinion by their expert. Employer also filed a notice of controversion on grounds that the statute allowing for a workers’ compensation award based upon prostate cancer was not in effect at the time Claimant was hired, and therefore he would not be eligible under the statute.

The workers’ compensation board held a hearing on these issues and, at that hearing, Claimant and Employer’s expert were the only witnesses to testify. At trial, due to objections by Claimant’s attorney, the testimony of Employer’s expert was limited, because he was not properly qualified to give his opinion on many issues.

The board decided that Claimant was eligible for workers’ compensation benefits and that this was a job-related illness. Employer appealed the board’s decision and the intermediary appeals court agreed largely with the board but remanded the case so that additional evidence could be considered. However, both parties petitioned for review by the state supreme court, and that petition was granted.

The court held that Claimant was entitled to benefits. It was clearly the legislatures intent to extend workers’ compensation for prostate cancer to firefighters who are exposed to carcinogens on a regular basis. It would be unjust to deny Claimant benefits because of the impossibility of providing that the carcinogenic substances to which he was exposed caused this cancer. To require such proof would essentially make it impossible for a firefighter to collect under the statute.

If you have been injured at work in Asheville, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Adamson v. Municipality of Anchorage and Novapro Risk Solutions, Aug. 29, 2014, Supreme Court of aska

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Graven v. N.C. Dept. of Public Safety – Injuries From Holiday Lunch Accident Not Compensable, Aug. 15, 2014, Asheville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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