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Board to decide if nurse’s chemical sensitivity work-related


The Hawaii Supreme Court decision will require the state’s Labor and Industrial Relations Appeal Board to reconsider whether a nurse’s diagnosed multiple chemical sensitivity is work-related.

In Porter v. Queen’s Medical Center, the Hawaii high court on Tuesday vacated the board’s decision to deny her request for reconsideration, holding that the nurse presented sufficient evidence for her case to be reopened.

Adeline Porter worked as a registered nurse for Queen’s Medical Center from 1967 until her termination in 2005. In 2002, Ms. Porter and other employees began suffering from respiratory symptoms that she believed were a result of contaminated carpet and wall coverings. As a result of the alleged chemical exposure, Ms. Porter was treated in the emergency room five times in 2002 and 2003 and was diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivity, according to court documents. She filed workers compensation claims for the ER visits, but the claims were denied. She later asked the Hawaii Labor and Industrial Relations Appeal Board to reopen her claims, but the court declined to reopen the case.

Ms. Porter argued that it was a mistake for her claim to be denied on the board’s conclusion that “there is no such injury as multiple chemical sensitivity.” She also argued that the board should not have decided her case on the basis of whether MCS was a legitimate diagnosis, but rather whether her injuries were work related.

The Supreme Court agreed and vacated the board’s decision, holding that the board’s characterization of Ms. Porter’s argument for reopening her claim was “artificially narrow.”

The court held that Ms. Porter clearly argued that the compensability of her claim was dependent on whether it was work related, and found that she supported this argument with substantial evidence, including letters the state’s Disability Compensation Division administrator wrote in 2006 and 2007 to a state senator that stated MCS injuries would be compensable if they were found to be work related.

The court held that Ms. Porter’s argument was in “stark contrast” to the board’s dismissal of her claims 2004, and remanded the case to the board to make a determination on the work-relatedness of her illness.




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