Alabama Workers' Comp Blawg

  • 11
  • Sep
  • 2010

Asthma Attacks Or Similar Conditions Can be Occupational Disease or Accidental Injury

Williams v. Valley View Health and Rehabilitation, LLC

On September 10, 2010, the Court of Appeals released this opinion wherein it reversed the Trial Court’s grating of Summary Judgment in favor of the defendant, stating that the Court should have considered the new legal argument in post-judgment motion that asthma attack due to a one time exposure to chemicals was an accidental injury.

The plaintiff provided adequate notice for an accidental injury and the complaint said she suffered injury due to an incident. The defendant filed for Summary Judgment arguing it was not an occupational disease. The plaintiff responded and said it was an occupational disease and even filed her own Motion for Summary Judgment that the injury was an occupational disease. The Trial Court granted the defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, stating it was not an occupational disease. At that point, the plaintiff filed a post-judgment motion stating that she never filed an occupational disease claim and that the Trial Court should consider the claim that she sustained an accidental injury. Considering a new legal argument is within the Trial Court’s discretion and not to be reversed unless they exceeded that discretion. Based on this right, the Trial Court denied the post-judgment motion.

The majority focused on the fact that case law has always treated asthma attacks and similar conditions due to a one-time exposure as accidental injuries, in addition to the plaintiff providing notice as required for accidental injuries. Furthermore, it stated that there was no assertion that her asthma was due to long-term exposure, which is required for an occupational disease. Based on this, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Trial Court should have consider the new argument because her entire claim should not be foreclosed because the accidental injury claim was not considered.

My Two Cents:

Since the burden of proof for proving an accidental injury is lower that an occupational disease due to continuous exposure, it is important to identify early on whether or not the claimant is claiming accidental versus non-accidental exposure.

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