A worker who fell into a coma just before his death from work-related cancer should have been awarded workers compensation benefits for the loss of use in his arms and legs, an Ohio appeals court ruled.
Glenn Evans, 74, worked “many years” for Avon Lake, Ohio-based polymer maker PolyOne Corp., where he was exposed to vinyl chloride, court records show. In July 2010, he was diagnosed with hepatic angiosarcoma, a type of liver cancer that is known to be caused by vinyl chloride exposure.
Mr. Evans began chemotherapy in August 2010, and PolyOne, which is self-insured, paid workers comp benefits related to Mr. Evans' cancer, records show. Mr. Evans died from the disease in July 2011.
Four days before his death, an orthopedic surgeon examined Mr. Evans at his home and found that he was in a coma and had lost “all use of both arms and both legs,” records show. A related workers comp claim was filed the day after that exam for the loss of use of Mr. Evans' limbs.
A hearing officer with the Industrial Commission of Ohio found that Mr. Evans' later claim was abated by his death, court records show. Mr. Evans' widow, Twyla Evans, appealed that decision and filed for workers comp death benefits.
An Ohio workers comp district hearing officer allowed Ms. Evans' death claim but denied her claim for benefits related to Mr. Evans' loss of limb use, records show. The officer found that Mr. Evans “had a medical history of congestive heart failure, hypertension, reflux and anorexia” that could have caused his motor condition, rather than his work-related cancer, and that his coma prevented him from consciously perceiving physical suffering from his limb paralysis.
But on appeal, another workers comp commission officer granted benefits in November 2011 for Mr. Evans' loss of limb use, records show. That officer found that Mr. Evans was not required to be aware of his loss of use in order to receive compensation for that condition. PolyOne appealed, and a three-member panel of the Ohio industrial commission denied the employer's request.
A three-judge panel of the Ohio 10th District Court of Appeals upheld the benefit award for Mr. Evans' loss of limb use on Monday. The court cited a magistrate's opinion of Mr. Evans' case, which said “some medical evidence” showed that Mr. Evans' limb paralysis was permanent, rather than temporary, and that the condition was caused by Mr. Evans' cancer.
Mr. Evans' “loss of use was permanent because it was expected to last, and did last, until Evans' death,” the magistrate's opinion reads.