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Zurich unit loses petition to appeal black lung benefits award

Posted On: Sep. 28, 2017 2:34 PM CST

Zurich unit loses petition to appeal black lung benefits award

A federal appeals court denied a petition filed by Zurich American Insurance Group seeking review of an order affirming an administrative law judge’s award of black lung benefits to a former mine worker.

Sylvester J. Linton sued Ashland, Kentucky, coal mining company Cannelton Industries Inc. and Zurich, its insurer, under the Black Lung Benefits Act saying he had a totally disabling respiratory or pulmonary impairment related to his work in coal mines. A Philadelphia administrative law judge of the Social Security Administration’s Office of Disability Adjudication and Review credited Mr. Linton with 17 years of qualifying coal mine employment and awarded disability benefits, according to records in Zurich American Insurance Group, insurer for Cannelton Industries Inc. vs. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, United States Department of Labor and Sylvester Linton.

An underground or equivalent above-ground coal mining work history of at least 15 years is required to trigger presumption in black lung claims.

Cannelton, Mr. Linton’s most recent employer, appealed the decision to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Benefits Review Board, which affirmed the judge’s award of benefits. Zurich appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, claiming that Mr. Linton’s work history may not have included enough underground mining work to qualify for black lung benefits.

In an unpublished per curiam opinion, which does not have binding precedent in the circuit, a three-judge panel of the appeals court denied Zurich’s petition.

“Our review of the record discloses that the board’s decision is based upon substantial evidence and is without reversible error,” the panel said. “Accordingly, we deny the petition for review for the reasons stated by the board.”

Representatives for Zurich were not immediately available to comment.