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Letcher County Board of Education v. Hall

Supreme Court of Kentucky

June 13, 2019

LETCHER COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION APPELLANT
v.
ROGER HALL; HONORABLE CHRISTINA HAJJAR, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE; AND WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD APPELLEES

          ON APPEAL FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2018-CA-000788 WORKERS COMPENSATION BOARD NO. 15-WC-01407

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Barry Lewis.

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, ROGER HALL: Daniel Fayne Dotson.

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, WORKERS' COMPENSATION BOARD: Michael W. Alvey.

          COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, HON. CHRISTINA HAJJAR: Honorable Christina Hajjar Administrative Law Judge.

          OPINION

         KELLER, JUSTICE

         Roger Hall (Hall) developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos over the course of his employment as a teacher at Letcher County High School in Letcher County, Kentucky. He initiated a claim for benefits pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) Chapter 342, the Workers' Compensation chapter. After reviewing the relevant evidence, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied Hall's claim. He appealed to the Workers' Compensation Board (Board), which unanimously reversed the ALJ's determination. The Letcher County Board of Education (Letcher County) appealed to the Court of Appeals, which unanimously affirmed the Board's decision. He now appeals to this Court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Hall was employed as a teacher at Letcher County High School beginning in 1976 until he retired in 2003. Over the course of his career, he physically worked in two different school buildings-the old high school, and the new high school. The boiler room located in the old high school building was used as a breakroom for teachers. It contained furniture and vending machines.

         Hall was subsequently transferred to the new Letcher County High School, which was completed in 1992 and was located across the street from the old school, which then became the elementary school. However, he and other teachers continued to use the boiler room at the old high school as a breakroom/lunchroom. Hall remained employed at the new high school until his retirement in 2003. He occasionally worked as a substitute teacher until 2014.

         Hall filed his Form 102-OD on September 4, 2015, alleging that he developed mesothelioma in his abdominal area after being exposed to asbestos over the course of his employment. Hall had been treated by multiple physicians across the county as a result of this exposure. He underwent two hernia surgeries, one cyto-reductive surgery and chemotherapy.

         The ALJ concluded that Hall's mesothelioma was caused by his exposure to asbestos during his course of employment. However, the ALJ ultimately determined that Hall's claim was untimely filed pursuant to KRS 342.3l6(4)(a) which provides:

The right to compensation under this chapter resulting from an occupational disease shall be forever barred unless a claim is filed with the commissioner within three (3) years after the last injurious exposure to the occupational hazard or after the employee first experiences a distinct manifestation of an occupational disease in the form of symptoms reasonably sufficient to apprise the employee that he or she has contracted the disease, whichever shall last occur; and if death results from the occupational disease within that period, unless a claim therefor be filed with the commissioner within three (3) years after the death; but that notice of claim shall be deemed waived in case of disability or death where the employer, or its insurance carrier, voluntarily makes payment therefor, or if the incurrence of the disease or the death of the employee and its cause was known to the employer. However, the right to compensation for any occupational disease shall be forever barred, unless a claim is filed with the commissioner within five (5) years from the last injurious ...

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