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Employer, insurers must cover asthma meds long after asbestos exposure

Asthma asbestos

An appeals court in Florida on Wednesday ordered an employer and its insurers to continue to cover asthma medications for a worker who suffered breathing problems after exposure to asbestos in the late 1990s.

Geoffrey Meehan worked on the sixth floor at Orange County Data & Appraisals in Orlando from 1995 to 1997, an office he described as “dismal with leaks in the ceilings and blackish growths on wall tiles” and that after employees in the building began to experience breathing problems, asbestos was discovered and employees were removed from all floors of the building except for the floor where he worked, according to documents in Geoffrey Meehan v. Orange County Data & Appraisals and Johns Eastern Company Inc., filed in the District Court of Appeals of Florida, First District, in Tallahassee.

“The employees hired by the building renovation company wore body suits and masks while working on the sixth floor near the Claimant's work space. Yet, the Claimant was not provided any protective gear,” documents state.

Mr. Meehan later developed breathing problems and reported his illness to his employer, which accepted his workers compensation claim for asthma treatment based on what Mr. Meehan testified was a “building-related illness.” Fifteen years later, the employer terminated coverage for treatment based on a peer review of the case, records state.

Follow examinations, both Mr. Meehan’s doctor and a doctor hired by the insurer came to different conclusions on whether Mr. Meehan needed to continue treatment. The state Judge of Compensation Claims sided with the doctor who said treatment was no longer necessary. The appeals court, in turn, found that no “competent, substantial evidence” existed to deny treatment and that the employer and the insurer had accepted the claim as compensable.

“No evidence was introduced by the (employer/carrier) that the Claimant's symptoms changed since the date of the joint stipulation or that new, unrelated conditions or symptoms had arisen since the exposure was accepted as compensable,” the ruling states. “Accordingly, the order of the JCC is reversed and the matter is remanded for entry of an order granting the claims requested.”

Attorneys involved, the employer and its insurers could not immediately be reached for comment. 






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