Commission Awards 17.5% Loss of Person as a Whole for Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis

Ondo v. Monterey Coal Company, 08 WC 6504, 17 IWCC 349 IWCC PDF

Coal Miner

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded a coal miner 17.5% loss of person as a whole for coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), asthma, and rhinitis in Ondo v. Monterey Coal Company, 08 WC 6504, 17 IWCC 349 IWCC PDF.

The petitioner began working in the coal mines in the 1970’s. He worked for 37 years as a coal miner, 29 of which were above ground as an electrician. He retired from the company on September 29, 2006, when he was approximately 55 years old.

His medical records through the 1990’s and early 2000’s presented no evidence of any significant respiratory issues. In 2007, he was diagnosed with coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), which Dr. Glennon Paul attributed to coal dust exposure. He was further diagnosed with asthma and rhinitis also likely caused or aggravated by occupational exposure.

Dr. Paul opined that as a result of these conditions, the petitioner “was totally disabled from working in the coal mine and that the restriction was permanent.” Dr. Paul thought that the petitioner would be permanently restricted to sedentary work.

Despite expert opinions to the contrary, an arbitrator for the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission found that the petitioner’s coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), asthma, and rhinitis were causally related to his employment.

Regarding the nature and extent of the injury, the arbitrator found that the petitioner was capable of more than sedentary work based on his lifestyle. Accordingly, the arbitrator awarded 10% loss of person as a whole under section 8(d)(2) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

The petitioner appealed the award to the Commission, who agreed that his permanent partial disability was more severe than the arbitrator found based on his documented breathing problems. Without much further analysis, the Commission increased his award to 17.5% loss of person as a whole.

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