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Workers’ Compensation Claims And Scientific Evidence In Maryland

Posted on: November 11, 2013

In a recent workers’ compensation decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision that scientific evidence connecting mold to non-respiratory illnesses was inadmissible. Often in workers compensation incidents, an injured person needs to introduce evidence connecting their injury to a condition that existed in the workplace. The injury must arise “out of and in the course of employment.” Sometimes this connection can be non-scientific and the relationship between the injury and the workplace is clear. For example, if a worker accidentally slips and falls while working, they may be eligible for workers compensation benefits. Other times, the connection can be more difficult to establish.

Chesson v. Montgomery Mutual Insurance Co.

In Chesson, several employees who worked in an office building noticed that the building had a foul odor. Upon investigation, a maintenance crew found two types of mold in the walls of the office building. The workers filed a workers compensation claim, alleging that they suffered from “sick building syndrome.” Sick building syndrome is an illness that can result from working in buildings with poor ventilation, and causes symptoms such as skin irritation, headache, fatigue, and other symptoms. In particular, the employees alleged that they suffered neurocognitive and musculoskeletal symptoms that were not respiratory in nature.

In support of their claim, the workers offered testimony from an expert witness. Before a Maryland court accepts scientific testimony, the court applies the Frye-Reed test. Under the Frye-Reed test, the court will examine whether the technical or scientific method is reliable and generally accepted in the scientific community before they will admit expert testimony. The expert testified as to the causal connection between the mold and the symptoms. However, he did not test any of the buildings for mold. Likewise, the defendant insurance company introduced an expert who testified that there could be other causes for the symptoms, such as the psychosocial office work environment. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals found that the scientific methodology and the causal theory connecting the mold to the symptoms were not generally accepted.

How a Maryland Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help

Scientific evidence can be difficult to understand, and winning workers’ compensation case can depend on whether or not a Maryland court will accept the evidence as passing the Frye-Reed standard. Having an attorney who understands Maryland workers compensation law is important if you think you may have suffered an injury resulting from workplace conditions.

Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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