Court sends denial of benefits for lung disease back to appeals officer |

Court sends denial of benefits for lung disease back to appeals officer

Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered an appeals officer to take another look at whether the lung disease which killed a mason and bricklayer was caused by his job.

George Henthorn worked as a mason more than 40 years, sawing rebar, stones, cement, bricks and other materials which constantly exposed him to irritating dusts. After he developed a disabling respiratory illness, he filed for workers compensation with Employers Insurance of Nevada. The claim was denied, because insurers said the medical tests didn’t prove his work caused the pulmonary fibrosis.

He was denied by an appeals officer and the district court before taking his case to the Supreme Court.

Justices Bob Rose, Bill Maupin and Mark Gibbons agreed the appeals officer made several mistakes in ruling Henthorn didn’t meet the burden of proof.

“Here, the record does not support the appeals officer’s conclusion that no doctor was able to causally relate Henthorn’s job conditions to his diagnosed disease with the certainty required by law,” the ruling states. The justices stated that Henthorn wasn’t required to eliminate all other possible causes of the disease. They said the hearing officer chose to eliminate the opinions of two doctors who said the illness was caused by his job.

They sent the case back with instructions that the hearing officer might get more evidence from an autopsy of Henthorn showing the nature of the particles which destroyed his lungs and to reconsider the claim.