Appellate Court Grants Workers’ Compensation to Nurse with Floor Wax Allergy

A Pennsylvania appellate court has ruled in favor of a nurse whose allergy to the floor wax used by her employer created breathing problems that forced her to seek work elsewhere.

In April of 2010 Nancy Little was working full time as a registered nurse for Select Specialty Hospital in York, Pennsylvania. She began experiencing serious breathing problems, with symptoms so severe that she sought treatment at a nearby emergency room. After a few days off from work, she returned to her duties, but experienced the same symptoms again a month later. At that time she noted that the floors in the facility were being waxed. She also returned to the local emergency room for treatment, and was not able to go back to work for almost three weeks.

Ms. Little’s breathing problems continued with repeated episodes requiring emergency care. Following an episode in August of 2010 she did not return to Select Specialty for work. In October she applied for total disability workers’ compensation benefits for the time that she had missed from work, as well as the time that she was unemployed after leaving the hospital. Her claim was denied by Select Specialty, and in November she got a part-time job with another hospital, located in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Her new employer, Altoona Hospital, switched to a different type of wax upon learning of her allergy to the wax used by Select, and subsequently Ms. Little has not experienced any breathing problems in her new environment.

Ms. Little appealed Select Specialty’s denial of her claim, and upon review of her testimony and information provided by a toxicologist, a workers’ comp judge agreed that she had suffered disabling occupational asthma as a result of having been exposed to a chemical called di-isocyanate in the floor wax. The judge awarded her benefits for the weeks that she had missed and was unemployed, as well as partial disability benefits for a short period following, during which a physician had indicated that she had fully recovered, but Ms. Little appealed this decision, arguing that because she was unable to return to full time work, she should receive full compensation benefits. This claim was denied by the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, which found that because her asthma had resolved and she hadn’t shown residual impairment, the benefits that had been given were sufficient.

Ms. Little appealed this decision to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which unanimously agreed with her position and reversed the decision by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board. Though they agreed that her asthma had been resolved, the judges ruled that her continued sensitivity to the floor wax meant that she was not able to return to her pre-injury work environment, and that she was therefore able to collect additional benefits. The ruling stated that, “A claimant need only show the aggravation arose in the course of employment, the aggravation is related to the employment, and that the claimant cannot return to the work place because the aggravation will most probably occur.”

If you need a workers’ compensation lawyer in Pennsylvania contact Joseph DeRita at the Law Offices of Joseph DeRita with offices in Philadelphia & Jamison, PA.

Employee Files Suit Claiming Workers’ Compensation Retaliation

When a worker is injured on the job in Pennsylvania, workers’ compensation insurance provides for their medical expenses, as well as additional benefits that they may need. Employers or their insurance companies may deny benefits or appeal approvals that are granted by the Workers’ Compensation Board, and often do because they fear that their policy rates will increase.

Though it is fairly common for this type of challenge to arise, it is illegal for an employer to take retaliative actions against an employee for having filed a workers’ compensation claim.  Yet that is exactly what a Pittsburgh man has claimed that his previous employer has done. Richard L. Nelson has filed suit against Enerfab Corporation, as well as the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 154 and Mark Angle Jr., claiming that he was physically attacked, had been discharged and was banished from the union as a result of having filed his workers’ compensation claim.

According to Mr. Nelson’s complaint, he worked as a welder for Enerfab in 2009, and joined the union at the same time. Five years later he claims to have suffered a knee injury while on the job, and that he was asked not to file a workers’ compensation claim. He did seek medical attention and required surgery to repair his injury, and subsequently filed a claim. Though he returned to work a few months later, he says that he was informed that he had been placed on a no-hire list and was being discharged. Following this he filed a grievance with his union.

In November of the same year, Mr. Nelson claims that he attended a meeting about the grievance he had filed, and was subsequently attacked by Mr. Angle. He was banished from his union and his discharge was confirmed. His complaint indicates that all of these actions were in retaliation to having filed the workers’ compensation claim for his on-the-job knee injury.
The suit is seeking damages for the injuries that he sustained in the attack, as well as compensation for the damages that he has suffered. Mr. Nelson is also seeking protection against any attacks that may come in the future. His case has been filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.


Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Results in $3 Million Verdict

When Katherine Palar was sent to Punxsutawey Hospital in March of 2009 for an MRI of her spine, the scan was read by Dr. John Wohlwend. In April she was sent back for a second MRI, and Wohlwend again viewed the images, focusing on identifying and describing a small cystic lesion located close to her spine. In reading both scans he ignored a mass that was present in the right upper lobe of Palar’s lung. That failure to report a mass measuring 2.2 centimeters by 1.8 centimeters was reportedly responsible for the progression of Palar’s non-small cell carcinoma of the lung from a stage IA to a stage IIIA 4.5-centimeter mass, and the reduction of her chances of survival from 70 percent to less than 25 percent. A Jefferson County jury has awarded her a $3 million delayed diagnosis verdict, the largest ever awarded in the county.

In reviewing the case, the jury assigned fifty percent negligence to each of two physicians – Dr. Wohlwend and Dr. Kamal Khalaf, who had reviewed Palar’s X-rays in 2010 and 2012 and who had not spotted the lesion. Though Dr. Khalaf admitted his liability, saying that he could have been more prudent in his care, Dr. Wohlwend defended himself in court, stating that an MRI of the spine is not used to look at the lung, and therefore he pays no attention to the lungs when a spinal MRI is prescribed. He further maintained that the lungs appear blurry on MRI films.

In expert testimony provided for Ms. Palar, Dr. Michael Racenstein of Alexian Brothers Medical Center indicated that Dr. Wohlwend’s failure to suggest a follow-up examination of the mass in the lungs represented a breach in the standard of care expected of a radiologist, and had resulted in the progression of Ms. Palar’s condition, as well as the injuries that she suffered while undergoing radiation and chemotherapy once her advanced stage illness was diagnosed in 2013. Speaking for himself, Dr. Khalaf indicated that had Dr. Wohlwend referenced the lung mass in his reports he would have responded by suggesting further evaluation and consultation.

During the course of the trial, Ms. Palar had requested a $2 million verdict, to which the defense offered no response. The jury took just one hour to deliverate and awarded her $3 million, with $1.5 million provided to compensate her for past noneconomic losses and $1.5 million for future noneconomic losses.

If you are look for a personal injury attorney in Bucks County Pennsylvania then you need Joseph Derita.