Pennslyvania Court Holds Exposure at Work

A registered nurse was able to meet the burden of proof by demonstrating that her exposure at work was significant and therefore materially contributed to her latex sensitivity. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board recently held that a registered nurse submitted sufficient competent evidence to support her claim that as a result of her exposure to latex gloves at work she developed increased sensitivity. 

Anne M. Collington was employed as an R.N. in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Mercey Health Systems where latex gloves were used. She developed difficulty in breathing, chest discomfort, nasal stuffiness, itchy and watery eyes, blisters and hand rashes, and filed a workers compensation claim petition against her employer on October 8, 1997. 

At the hearing her physician, Dr. George Kern IV, who is Board-Certified in allergy and immunology, testified that be began treating her in August of 1997 and diagnosed her condition as latex hypersensitivity Type 1 and 4, allergic rhinitis, bronchial asthma, food allergy and contact dermatitis Type 4. It was Dr. Kern’s opinion that the nurse’s latex allergy was caused by the very high level of latex dust exposure in the ICU. 

Dr. Kern indicated that latex sensitivity increases over a period of time and that each exposure raises the level of sensitivity. The medical expert indicated that the nurse’s exposure in the course of her daily living outside of work was insufficient to sensitize her to latex. Dr. Kern further testified that the resulting latex allergy does not go away when her exposure ceases and that therefore she must work in a latex free environment in the future. 

The opinion of the trial Court to award benefits was affirmed. The nurse was awarded temporary disability benefits from August 11, 1997 through January 27, 1998 when she returned to work. Thereafter she was awarded partial permanent disability benefits. 

Collington v. Mercey Health System, A99-2668, decided November 21, 2000, 2000 WL 1754081 (Pa.Work.Comp.App.Bd.) 

Posted in: Latex Litigation