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Firefighter’s vocal cord cancer not covered by workers comp

Firefighter’s vocal cord cancer not covered by workers comp

A firefighter could not prove that his vocal cord cancer was caused by his 34-year career with the City of Philadelphia Fire Department, according to a Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Appeals Board ruling upholding an earlier decision that his cancer was not compensable. 

Eugene Capaldi was hired as a firefighter in 1969 and retired in 2003. In 2005, he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the right vocal cord, which was successfully treated with surgery, according to court documents. 

Seven years later, in December 2012, Mr. Capaldi filed a claim petition alleging that his cancer was caused by his workplace exposure to carcinogens and sought payment of his medical bills. The city denied his claim. 

Upon appeal, a Pennsylvania workers compensation judge on Monday found that his doctor failed to prove that the specific type of cancer was caused by his occupation, and had not sufficiently researched proven methods diagnosing causes of cancer. The doctor for the defense had “opined that Claimant's past smoking and alcohol consumption was the probable cause of his cancer and that a causal connection between laryngeal cancer and firefighting has not been established,” according to the ruling.

Mr. Capaldi is a casual drinker and stopped smoking in 1979, although he had smoked a pack a day for 21 years, the records state. 

The appeals board also held that Mr. Capaldi “could not use the statutory presumption … (of Pennsylvania law) that assists a firefighter in proving that his occupational disease is compensable because he filed his claim petition more than 300 weeks after his last day of work as a firefighter.” 


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