Tag Archives: cancer

The Cancer Presumption in Workers’ Compensation

What is a legal presumption? 

Can a legal presumption be rebutted by sufficient contrary evidence?

Wisconsin workers’ compensation law contains many presumptions. For example, for firefighters, it is presumed that if a firefighter has cancer, the cancer is employment-related. The Statute applies to any State, County, or Municipal firefighter who has worked for ten years with at least two-thirds of the working hours as a firefighter who has cancer of the skin, breast, central nervous system, or lymphatic, digestive, hematological, urinary, skeletal, oral, or reproductive systems. For that firefighter whose disability or death is caused by cancer, the cancer diagnosis is presumptive evidence that the cancer was caused by employment. However, no presumption exists for firefighters who smoke cigarettes or use tobacco products for claims after January 2001. (Wis. Stat. §891.455 Presumption of Employment Connected Disease: Cancer)

Other presumptions in Wisconsin law include a presumption that a youthful worker (under age 27) is presumed to be able to earn the maximum wage rate by the time he reaches age 27, for purposes of Permanent Partial Disability, disfigurement, or death. For example, a McDonalds burger-flipper earning $10 per hour who has a severe burn is presumed (instead of the $200 or $300 he actually earns per week) to be earning $1,400 per week under the Youthful Age Presumption. Evidence of the worker’s likely inability to earn the maximum wage (due to cognitive or academic deficiency or similar lower earning work history) can be used to rebut the presumption and therefore limit the maximum Permanent Partial Disability or disfigurement award.

In a recent cancer case, the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation board found a firefighter cannot receive workers’ compensation benefits for prostate cancer because he failed to show his cancer was work-related despite a statutory presumption for firefighters. The firefighter began working for the City of Philadelphia in the 1970s and retired in 2006 after a diagnosis of prostate cancer. He filed a workers’ compensation claim saying his cancer stemmed from carcinogens he was exposed to while working as a firefighter, such as diesel fumes from fire trucks, second hand tobacco smoke from co-workers, and smoke from burning debris he encountered while fighting fires. Note he also acknowledged he smoked an average of a half pack of cigarettes daily since the 1960s. His doctor’s testimony that his carcinogen exposure caused the prostate cancer was rebutted by the City’s physician indicating that prostate cancer is typically more of a “disease of aging than it is of external influence.” The Judge, in denying the claim, noted “Any elevated risks for prostate cancer among firefighters might also be explained by other factors, such as detection bias, ethnicity and geography.”

The cancer presumption in Wisconsin (for non-smoking firefighters) would be more difficult to rebut, but factors such as family history may prove the “other evidence” necessary to rebut the presumption.

9/11 Fund Starts Making Payments To Victims

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman, from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

The Zadroga 9/11 Victims Claim Fund has started to make payments to victims of the World Trade Center attack. First Responders andthose who lived or worked in the immediate geographical site near “ground zero” may be entitled to the payment of benenfits for illness and injuries that they suffer as a result of the terrorist attack.

Those eligible include, individuals present at  a 9/11 crash site at the time of or in the immediate aftermath, who suffer physical harm as a result of the crashes or debris removal. Also the personal representatives of individuals who were present at a 9/11 crash site, who died as a result of the crashes or debris removal, are eligible to file claims.

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Can Cell Phones Cause Cancer (On The Job)?

An Italian court ruled that excessive mobile phone use can cause cancer.

An Italian court ruled that excessive mobile phone use can cause cancer. Italy’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling linking a business executive’s brain tumor and excessive mobile phone use. While much of the scientific opinion generally suggests there is not enough evidence to declare such a link, those studies were co-financed by the same companies that produce mobile telephones. The evidence in the Italian case was based on studies conducted between 2005 and 2009 by a group led by Dr. Lennart Hardell, cancer specialist at the University Hospital in Orebro in Sweden. The Italian court, relying on this research, noted this was independent research unlike other research financed by mobile telephone companies. The business executive Innocenzo Marcolini developed a tumor in the left side of his head after using his mobile telephone for 5 to 6 hours a day for a dozen years. He usually held the phone in his left hand while taking notes with his right hand.  He developed a “neurinoma” which affected his cranial nerve, and sought worker’s compensation from the Italian Worker’s Compensation Authority. The initial application was rejected because of a lack of proof but a court in Brescia later ruled there was a causal link between the use of mobile and cordless telephones and tumors.

Wisconsin provides benefits for an employee’s death or disability due to a cancerous condition if causally related to work exposure to carcinogens. There are numerous potential cancer causing agents in the workplace, but none so far have been linked to cell phone use. The causation standard is straightforward in Wisconsin. If the patient suffers from a condition caused by an “appreciable period of workplace exposure” the physicians are asked whether that exposure was either the sole cause of the condition or at least a material, contributory, causative factor in the condition’s onset or progression. This Italian court case suggests a further inquiry into the subject may be appropriate.