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Previous employer responsible for hearing loss: Appeals court

hearing loss

The hearing loss suffered by a veteran boilermaker working in power plants can be attributed to previous employment, an appeal court in Oregon ruled Wednesday.

William Lodge, a 46-year boilermaker who retired in 2012 after working for several employers, continued to work part-time, post-retirement for SCI 3.2 Inc., a company that builds parade floats. In 2014, he was diagnosed with noise-induced hearing loss and filed an occupational disease claim with both SCI and his previous employer NAES Corp., which services power plants, according to documents in In the Matter of the Compensation of William H. Lodge, Claimant, NAES Corp., Petitioner, v. SCI 3.2, Inc. and William Lodge, filed in the Court of Appeals of Oregon in Salem, Oregon.

Following SCI’s attempt to shift the responsibility for the hearing loss to his work at the plant, the state Workers’ Compensation Board agreed, eventually holding NAES responsible for Mr. Lodge's hearing loss under the state’s last injurious exposure rule, citing state case law that found it improbable that his work with the float builder caused his hearing loss, per medical evidence, according to documents.

In its appeal for judicial review, NAES argued the board erred, stating in part that “the board applied the incorrect standard of proof and that, because it was at least possible that claimant's work for SCI contributed to his hearing loss, the board erred in concluding that his prior employment had been the sole cause of that occupational disease.” NAES also argued that the “record lacks substantial evidence,” according to documents.

In affirming, the appeals court found otherwise, writing “that substantial evidence and reason support the board's determination that claimant's prior employment as a boilermaker, including his time with NAES, was the sole cause of his hearing loss.”




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