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Career fireman can’t sue over cumulative hearing loss


A 30-year fireman does not qualify for permanent partial disability over hearing loss he suffered over years of exposure to loud noises because Louisiana state law requires hearing loss for disability to be attributed “solely due to a single traumatic accident,” the Supreme Court of Louisiana unanimously ruled Wednesday, with at least two judges calling on legislature to change the “gap” in state law. 

James Hartman, who was employed by the St. Bernard Parish Fire Department since 1990, was exposed to “injurious levels of noise, which resulted in permanent hearing loss,” according to documents in James J. Hartman, jr., v. St. Bernard Parish Fire Department & Fara., filed in New Orleans.

Diagnosed with 42.2% binaural hearing loss in 2017, a doctor “opined that repeated exposure to loud noises for extended periods of time (specifically, from 1990-2017) was ‘likely a contributing factor to [Mr. Hartman’s] bilateral sensorineural hearing loss,’” documents state.

The Fire Department opposed his claim for permanent partial disability “asserting, among other things,” that Mr. Hartman’s claim for work-related hearing loss is not covered by state law, which applies only where the permanent hearing loss caused by a single event.

A judge with the Office of Workers’ Compensation and an appeals court both dismissed the claim on those grounds. The state’s highest court, stating that law bars the claim, affirmed.

Several judges wrote concurring opinions, including one who stated that “the worker’s proven cumulative hearing loss was attributed to required, on-the-job exposure to excessive levels of noise over an extended period of work time. In my view, on-the-job hearing loss is hearing loss, whether caused by a single traumatic event or over an extended period of time; and it should not be restricted to a single traumatic event. Hopefully, the legislature will address and correct this inequity.”





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