An employee said she developed breathing problems due to exposure to mold from the air conditioning where she worked. The company said her problems came from smoking. When it came to workers’ comp, what did a court think?
Delores Wilson worked for Yonkers Raceway, a horse track, in New York. She worked there from 2008 to 2010 when she filed a workers’ comp claim. Wilson said she developed breathing problems due to exposure to environmental irritants where she worked.
Her allergist said exposure to moldy hay or contaminants from air conditioning vents caused her to develop chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis. HP is a disease in which the lungs become inflamed from breathing in antigens – foreign substances such as molds, dusts and chemicals.
The Workers’ Compensation Board ruled Wilson suffered an accidental injury and awarded comp benefits. Her employer appealed to a state court.
Wilson said she never had respiratory problems before 2008. She worked in a building that was 60 yards from the horse barns. Records show Wilson and other employees had periodically complained about “black particles” that came out of the air conditioning vent.
But the employer’s medical expert said Wilson suffered from emphysema caused by smoking. However, the medical expert also admitted Wilson tested positive for exposure to antigens that cause HP.
Wilson, who was 43, also tested negative for a genetic disorder that can cause premature emphysema.
The state court upheld the ruling of the Board: Wilson should receive comp for developing HP from exposure to antigens at work.
It’s not known why some people can be exposed to molds, dust and chemicals and have little or no reaction while others develop serious breathing disorders such as HP.
Cleaning heating and ventilation filters can help reduce contact with these antigens, particularly mold.
What do you think about the court’s ruling? Let us know in the comments below.
(Wilson v. Yonkers Raceway, NY Appellate Division, Third Department, No. 518656, 4/26/15)