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Lack of Asbestosis in Lung Cancer Case Leads to Affirmation of Denial of Workers’ Compensation Dependent Benefits

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, March 27, 2015

In this appeal of a worker’s compensation decision, the decedent’s wife was seeking dependent benefits based on the findings of two physicians that the decedent’s lung cancer was caused in part due to occupational asbestos exposure. The benefits were denied based on the Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board’s conclusion that in the absence of a diagnosis of asbestosis, the decedent’s lung cancer was due to his significant smoking.

The appellate court confirmed the denial, stating, “The Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board found that it was unable to make a diagnosis of asbestosis based on Mr. Watkins’s radiology studies and concluded that occupational pneumoconiosis and/or asbestosis did not contribute in a material degree to Mr. Watkins’s death. The Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board found Mr. Watkins’s death was from his terminal lung cancer that was a result of his significant smoking history and not materially contributed to by occupational pneumoconiosis and/or asbestos exposure. The Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board has not been shown to be clearly wrong. Therefore, this Court affirms the Order of the Board of Review in reliance on the findings of the Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board.”

Read the full decision here.

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