Florida Appeals Court Overturns Two Rulings Awarding Workers’ Compensation for Work-Related Meningitis
Many workers become exposed to toxic or infectious substances while performing work that keep the rest of us safe and healthy. Workers’ compensation insurance, with its no-fault provisions, exist because work inherently contains risk of injury. Any employee who becomes ill as a result of doing his or her job is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Many kinds of cancer are considered occupational diseases, and firefighters and law enforcement officers can claim workers’ compensation benefits for cardiovascular diseases. Almost any kind of illness is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits as long as you can demonstrate that it is work-related. The only exceptions are some very common infectious diseases that are so common and so contagious that it is almost impossible to tell where you were exposed. Colds, for example, are so contagious that it is impossible to tell whether you got one at work or in any other place where you were in the same room with other people. Fungal meningitis is rare enough that there can be little ambiguity about whether someone contracted it at work, but it is serious enough that you can expect pushback from your employer about having workers’ compensation pay for it. If your employer is refusing to pay for your treatment for a serious, work-related illness, contact a South Florida workers’ compensation lawyer.
What Is Meningitis?
Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Its main symptoms are fever and severe headache. If untreated, it can cause epilepsy, deafness, brain damage, or even death. It has many causes, most of them infectious, including various types of viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Most cases of fungal meningitis are caused by the Cryptococcus neoformans fungus; other species of fungi known to cause meningitis belong to the genera Coccidoides, Histoplasma, Candida, and Blastomyces.
Tough Standards for Proving That Fungal Meningitis Is Work-Related
In January 2015, Edward Cruce died from fungal meningitis caused by C. neoformans. In a workers’ compensation claim, his family claimed that he was exposed to the fungus at his job as a groundskeeper for the Indian River County school district, specifically through coming into contact with pigeon feces while cleaning a storage area.
In August 2015, Robert Taylor of Titusville became ill with fungal meningitis while working in a heavily wooded area in a land-clearing project. Taylor’s meningitis was caused by a different type of fungus, and he eventually recovered.
Both cases were originally decided by Judge of Compensation Claims Robert Dietz, who approved workers’ compensation for both of them. Both employers appealed, and the appeals court overturned both rulings, saying that the claimants did not meet the high standard of proof for determining that instances of infectious diseases like fungal meningitis are work-related.
Contact Us Today for Help
Do not be intimidated if your employer gives you a hard time about getting workers’ compensation benefits for a work-related infectious disease; instead, contact a lawyer. Contact the Sunrise workers’ compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld for help today.