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Warren Roth, Ryan Allen and John Quartucio Secure Major Appellate Victory, Establishing Workers’ Rights To Air Quality Safety

April 11, 2015

Members of BM&M’s workers’ compensation & disability benefits practice group successfully litigated a complex case before the Workers’ Compensation Board and its two-tiered administrative appeal system. Warren RothRyan Allen and John Quartucio, with their deft handling of depositions, hearings, and administrative appeals, laid the foundation for what would become a victory for the claimant against the liable employer in the Appellate Division, Third Department.

By unanimous decision, the Appellate Court ruled that substantial evidence demonstrated that the claimant sustained an accidental injury due to breathing problems. Having started with the employer in 2008, she stopped working in 2010, filing a claim alleging that she developed breathing problems due to exposure to environmental irritants at her workplace. The Board ultimately ruled, after a mandatory Full Board review argued by Mr. Ryan Allen, that claimant had sustained an accidental injury and established the claim. Nevertheless, the employer and its workers’ compensation carrier filed a Notice of Appeal in the Third Department.

Claimant presented the report and testimony of her treating allergist who opined that claimant suffers from causally-related chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis that can develop from exposure to moldy hay or contaminants from air conditioning vents. Claimant testified that she never had any respiratory problems prior to 2008, and the record reflects that claimant worked in a building that was 60 yards away from horse barns on the employer’s property. The record also reflects that claimant and other employees had periodically complained about black particles that came out of the air conditioning vent. In contrast, the employer’s medical expert opined that claimant suffers from centrilobular emphysema caused by smoking, although he acknowledged that claimant’s serology was positive for exposure to antigens that cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, among other defenses.

This victory will galvanize injured workers’ rights under the Workers’ Compensation Law, where the employer fails to maintain proper air quality safety standards in the workplace.

The decision can be viewed here.

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