Benefits: Occupational Diseases

MONTANA SUPREME COURT CASES

Montana State Fund v. Grande [03/20/12] 2012 MT 67 There was no evidence presented that by enacting § 39-71-407(13), MCA, the 2005 Legislature intended to revoke statutorily-created OD benefits.  The new statutory language contemplates that the employer is liable for an OD if the employee had the disease before working for the employer and the employee’s work is the major contributing cause not of the onset of the disease but of “the result,” which here is the disease’s progression to the point where the claimant could no longer work.

Montana State Fund v. Grande [03/20/12] 2012 MT 67 An employer cannot ignore the impact of work-related factors on pre-existing conditions.  Only by finding that the statute requires consideration of pre-existing conditions on the development of an OD can courts give meaning to the statutory requirement to determine the “major contributing cause” of the claimant’s condition, including permanent aggravations of pre-existing conditions resulting in an OD.  Only the “leading cause contributing to the result” must be related to the employment when considering “all other contributing causes,” including pre-existing conditions.

Fellenberg v. Transportation Ins. Co., 2005 MT 90 Although a former employee of W. R. Grace had an injurious condition (asbestosis) that was one hundred percent attributable to his employment, undisputed facts demonstrated that his retirement was not related to his lung disease and he had no intention of returning to work after retirement. In this situation, the Workers’ Compensation Court correctly determined that claimant’s asbestosis did not result in a loss of actual earnings or earnings capability, meaning he was not entitled to permanent total disability benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, or impairment award.
Hand v. UEF [11/30/04] 2004 MT 336 (No. 03-346) Where appeal was still open for review when Schmill v. Liberty Northwest Ins. Corp., 2003 MT 80, 315 Mont. 51, 67 P.3d 290, was decided, claimant is entitled to 100% of his total disability benefits if he suffers a wage loss as a result of his occupational disease, not the apportioned share determined in litigation prior to Schmill.
 
WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT CASES
Liberty Mutual Ins. Corp. v. Montana State Fund/Re Claim of Mitchell [12/23/08] 2008 MTWCC 54 The plain meaning of § 39-71-407(9), MCA, contains no requirement that the “employment” which is the major contributing cause of a claimant’s occupational disease derive from a particular employer. The statute calls for a comparison between occupational and non-occupational factors as part of the determination as to whether the OD is considered to “arise out of employment or be contracted in the course and scope of employment.” If such a determination is made, then the analysis moves forward to § 39-71-407(10), MCA, to assign liability to the employer of last injurious exposure.
Liberty Mutual Ins. Corp. v. Montana State Fund/Re Claim of Mitchell [12/23/08] 2008 MTWCC 54 Where the claimant carried lumber, performed concrete work, repaired fences and performed security work from August through October 2005, and testified that his back condition worsened during this period of time, and where his physicians agreed that this employment contributed to some degree to his present low-back condition, the Court concludes that the claimant was last injuriously exposed to the hazard of his OD during this period of time.
Liberty Mutual Ins. Corp. v. Montana State Fund/Re Claim of Mitchell [12/23/08] 2008 MTWCC 54 Where a physician concluded that the accumulation of 30 years of heavy labor is responsible for a claimant’s current low-back condition, a different physician opines that the claimant’s ongoing employment from 2002 through October 2005 contributed to some degree to the development of the occupational disease, and the physicians’ opinions are supported by objective medical findings, the Court concludes that the major contributing cause of the OD is the claimant’s lifetime of heavy-labor employment.
Paul v. Transportation Ins. Co. [10/07/04] 2004 MTWCC 69 Under 1987 laws, a claimant suffering from an occupational disease is entitled to the same benefits as an injured worker whose benefits are governed by the Workers' Compensation Act if those benefits are greater than provided under the Occupational Disease Act. Stavenjord v. Montana State Fund, 2003 MT 67, 314 Mont. 466, 67 P.3d 229.

Fellenberg v. Transportation Ins. Co. [3/19/04] 2004 MTWCC 29 Under the 1983 Occupational Disease Act (ODA), claimants suffering from occupational diseases are entitled to temporary and permanent total disability benefits to the same extent as claimants who suffer injuries compensable under the 1983 Workers' Compensation Act. 39-72-701, MCA (1981-2003). Affirmed in Fellenberg v. Transportation Ins. Co., 2005 MT 90

Hanson v. State Compen. Ins. Fund [06/02/95] 1995 MTWCC 42 Where unrefuted opinion of the OD panel physician was that claimant does not have an occupational disease and was not placed at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome by her occupational activities as a personal care attendant, and claimant offered no other evidence linking her mild carpal tunnel condition to her employment, WCC affirms DOL order that claimant is not suffering from an occupational disease.