Alabama Hearing Loss Claim Allowed to Proceed Despite Continued Exposure
On September 6, 2019, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released its opinion inEx parte Warrior Met Coal, Inc. In Warrior, the employee continued to work for employer when he filed a complaint for hearing loss. The employer moved for summary judgment because the employee was still working for them under the same noise conditions. The argument being that the employee could not establish a date of last exposure which, in Alabama, is considered the date of injury for cumulative exposure claims. The employer also argued that the employee could not establish a date of maximum medical improvement “MMI” since he continued to be exposed to the same noise conditions. The trial court denied the employer’s motion. The employer then petitioned the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals for a Writ of Mandamus directing the trial court to grant the summary judgment motion.
The Court of Appeals denied the employer’s petition. The court noted that nothing in the Act precluded employees from pursuing hearing loss claims simply because they would continue to be exposed. The Court noted that date of last exposure did not mean the last time the employee would ever be exposed with that employer. Rather, it means the most recent in time or latest. To rule otherwise would mean the employee would have to wait until he/she would never be exposed again in order to pursue any benefits including medical.
Concerning the MMI issue, the Court noted that this only had to do with whether or not there was any further medical care or treatment that could reasonably be anticipated to lessen the extent of current disability. It has nothing to do with whether or not the employee’s condition could worsen in the future.
About the Author
This blog submission was prepared by Mike Fish, an attorney with Fish Nelson & Holden, LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing self-insured employers, insurance carriers, and third party administrators in all matters related to workers’ compensation. Fish Nelson & Holden is a member of the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. If you have any questions about this submission or Alabama workers’ compensation in general, please contact Fish by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him directly at 205-332-1448.