NC Appeals Court on Asbestos and Workers' Compensation

In Maudlin v. A.C. Corp et al., the North Carolina Court of Appeals addressed a multi-pronged asbestos case. The case involved a man who worked as a pipefitter for more than 19 years at the company. He was exposed to insulation that contained asbestos while preforming his work, was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in 1997, and was forced to stop working due to his disabilities following surgery. He was later diagnosed, in 2007, with lung cancer, lymph node cancer, asbestosis, and pleural plaques. The North Carolina Industrial Commission concluded that these were compensable occupational diseases and that plaintiff was totally disabled as a result since July 1997. The Commission also concluded that Argonaut was the insurance company covering the risk and thus responsible for compensating the employee for these diseases. Argonaut appealed the commission’s Opinion and Award.

The Court agreed with the Commission with respect to Plaintiff’s lung cancer, lymph node cancer, and pleural plaquing. However the Court reversed “the Commission's determination that Argonaut was the responsible carrier as to plaintiff's claim for asbestosis” and remanded to the Commission to determine which carrier was holding the risk during the time Plaintiff was last exposed to asbestos for “30 working days, or parts thereof, within seven consecutive calendar months” and thus responsible for Plaintiff’s asbestosis with respect to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-57. The Court also sent back to the Commission for further findings of fact the issues of the apportionment of the award for Plaintiff’s lung damage, the carrier responsible for Plaintiff’s laryngeal cancer, and the determination of Plaintiff’s average weekly wage. This case is difficult because when determining which carrier was covering the risk for the Plaintiff's occupational disease, the Commission must rely on work records and expense reports from years ago that were not always accurate while still meeting the requirements of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-57.