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Miner’s pancreatitis is compensable: Court

Concrete slab

A miner’s pancreatitis is compensable, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in Charleston held in a unanimous decision on Friday.

In Blue Creek Mining LLC v. Chaffin, the appellate court affirmed a West Virginia Board of Review’s decision that the worker’s pancreatitis was brought on by his workplace injury.

Melvin Chaffin worked for Charleston, West Virginia-based Blue Creek Mining as a maintenance foreman. On June 10, 2016, he was using a chain ratchet to pull a concrete slab when he slipped and fell on the outstretched chain, with all of his weight landing on his abdomen. He continued to work for the rest of the day, but on the way home, his co-worker — with whom he carpools — said he had to pull off the road several times for Mr. Chaffin to vomit and then took him to the hospital, where he was treated for abdominal pain and vomiting and diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, fatty liver and acute kidney injury.

The treating physician indicated that the condition was triggered by his injury since he had no prior history of pancreatitis and said that no other cause could be found, and diagnosed his condition as traumatic pancreatitis.

An independent medical examiner opined that it was unrelated to the work incident and noted that Mr. Chaffin was taking several medications that have been found to cause acute pancreatitis.

A claims administrator denied his claim for workers compensation, but the West Virginia Office of Judges concluded that Mr. Chaffin showed by a preponderance of the evidence that he developed pancreatitis as a result of his work injury. Although the IME said that his medications were more likely to be the cause of his illness, the Office of Judges found that the IME failed to identify any of the medications. The Workers Compensation Board of Review adopted the findings.

Blue Creek Mining appealed, but the appellate court affirmed the decision, holding that Mr. Chaffin’s pancreatitis was compensable.

The appellate court held that the worker has “by a preponderance of the evidence that he sustained an injury in the course of and resulting from his employment on June 10, 2016, and that injury resulted in acute pancreatitis.” The court found that the review board made no violations of constitutional or statutory provisions, and therefore affirmed the board’s decision.





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