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Pennsylvania court reverses mesothelioma judgment

A workers' compensation case has returned to trial court after a Pennsylvania appeals court reversed a summary judgment. After an electrical company employee filed suit for allegedly contracting mesothelioma on the job, the appeals court argued that the Workers' Compensation Act's 300 week rule did not apply to this particular disease.

The employee was diagnosed in 2007 and subsequently died less than one year later. He worked on and off at Duquesne Light for nearly 42 years and believed that the exposure to asbestos while on the job lead to his diagnosis of the rare form of cancer. Family of the man pursued the suit on behalf of his estate.

The electrical company argued that the man was last employed more than 300 weeks prior to his mesothelioma diagnosis on the ground of an exclusivity provision in the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act.

This particular case is being examined based upon the decision in Tooey, another suit where two plaintiffs claimed to have had contracted mesothelioma on the job. The Worker's Compensation Act was thoroughly examined by the Supreme Court, which determined that the employees could not have shown signs of the disease until well after the 300 week period if the typical latency for mesothelioma lasts upwards of 30 to 50 years. The court's ruling determined that this decision rendered the act inapplicable for nearly all mesothelioma cases. Due to this, the employees are not exempt from filing a common-law claim in its stead.

As these cases demonstrate, employees unable to file a WC claim may opt to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, the Worker's Compensation Act may still offer protection for people with immediate workplace injuries due to an accident. If an individual believes that they are entitled to compensation for their medical expenses and pain and suffering, they may wish to consult with an attorney for advice on the matter.

Source: Legal Newsline, "Summary judgment reversed: ’300 week’ standard not applicable in asbestos cases", Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, May 15, 2014

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