A 12-year battle regarding hearing loss between Murphy Oil and a group of its former workers has ended with a decision against the company. Now the company must pay up.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld lower court rulings that awarded five former Murphy workers up to $75,000 each in damages plus future medical costs for employment-related hearing loss.
The employees started working for Murphy as young men and continued for 25 to 30 years, until retirement. The workers were all exposed to loud noise and weren’t provided hearing protection. In some cases, their employment pre-dated the start of OSHA in 1971.
A medical specialist testified that working at the Murphy plant in Meraux, LA, was the most significant factor in the workers’ hearing loss.
The company argued the hearing loss should be covered by workers’ compensation.
A trial court and appeals court both said gradual hearing loss doesn’t qualify for workers’ comp under state law because it doesn’t meet the definition of an “accident.”
Now, the Louisiana Supreme Court says it agrees with the lower court rulings.
More than 30 other workers have filed similar lawsuits against Murphy. If 40 workers receive similar awards of $75,000, the company could be out as much as $3 million.
Many employers complain about the costs of their workers’ comp insurance premiums. This case shows how companies would be affected on a regular basis if they had to pay out of pocket for health care, and possibly damages, for workers’ injuries.
To protect companies from paying out of pocket in cases like this, would you support changes to state laws so that gradual hearing loss would be covered under workers’ comp? Let us know what you think in the comments below.