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Denial of comp benefits over coal worker death improper: Court


A West Virginia appellate court on Tuesday reversed a decision of the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board of Review to deny fatal benefits to the dependent of a former coal worker who died from work-related illnesses.

The Intermediate Court of Appeals of West Virginia said the workers comp board erred in affirming a claim administrator’s denial of death benefits to Carol Hoosier because the administrator, and the board, used a leg injury as the basis for their decisions and not a diagnosis of occupational pneumoconiosis.

Ronnie Hoosier, who worked for Apogee Coal Co., suffered from various lung problems and other issues related to his work. He died in February 2020.

Ms. Hoosier filed for fatal dependents’ benefits in December 2021.

Doctors offered mixed opinions on what caused the death, and the comp board later found that “evidence submitted by the parties does not address the issue of whether the leg fracture contributed,” to the death, the appeals ruling states.

The appellate judges said the board’s rationale was “clearly wrong in analyzing this claim under Mr. Hoosier’s leg injury claim, rather than the (occupational pneumoconiosis) claim.”

The court said the benefits application was “arbitrarily” assigned to a leg injury claim rather than the appropriate claim.

The court remanded the case to the workers comp board for further proceedings.