Member D. Scott Newman and Associate Ryan M. Carroll of the Workers’ Compensation Group successfully defended a client that manufactures and deals commercial service vehicles against a Claim Petition alleging injuries as a result of exposure to fracking-related chemicals. The claimant, a former employee who regularly cleaned frack containment ponds, alleged that he was totally disabled as a result of exposure to unknown chemicals contained within the flowback water. The claimant subsequently developed wheel and hive reactions on his body and experienced restricted airways as a result of his tongue swelling.
Despite the claimant’s attorney’s efforts to the contrary, Workers’ Compensation Judge Stephen Minnich considered medical opinions from our board certified physician in occupational medicine, as well as the claimant’s physician who was associated with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, a group devoted to characterizing and addressing health issues associated with unconventional natural gas extraction.The claimant’s attorney unsuccessfully argued that our expert should be disqualified due to his lack of understanding of the fracking process.
In his decision, Judge Minnich determined that the claimant failed to meet his burden of establishing that his allergic reactions were the result of exposure to flowback water. Further, Judge Minnich found that the claimant did not meet his burden of establishing an occupational disease under the “catchall” provision of Section 108(n). By successfully defending the Claim Petition, our client avoided liability for damages exceeding $250,000.
Note: The results obtained in a particular case are heavily dependent on the facts and the law specific to that case.