Ruling Goes Against Former Workers in Sick Building Case
The state appeals court has ruled against seven former Moore County employees who claim that a building where they worked made them sick in the early 1990s.
In a unanimous opinion released Tuesday, the state Court of Appeals upheld a decision by the N.C. Industrial Commission that the former employees failed to establish that they contracted an occupational disease while working at the Community Services building.
“I think the court got it exactly right in a very well-reasoned decision,” said Raleigh attorney Matt Little, who represents the county insurance carrier, Sedgwick of the Carolinas. “These people were not exposed to any dangerous substances in that building.”
The former employees had argued, among other things, that the commission failed to comply with a previous appeals court ruling and relied on incompetent medical testimony, according to the opinion.
George Lennon, the attorney for the former employees, said Wednesday that he was disappointed with the court’s decision. He said he would have to talk with his clients before deciding whether to petition the state Supreme Court to consider an appeal. That is not automatic since the appeals court ruling was unanimous.
“Statistically, the odds are not favorable,” Lennon said of their chances for getting the state’s highest court to hear the case. “It’s an extremely frustrating situation for my clients, who are still seeking justice in their cases. We think this decision sets some unfortunate precedents.”
The seven employees filed worker compensation claims against Moore County and its insurance company in the mid-1990s. The county and the insurance carrier have disputed the claims, arguing that there was no proof that the building made them sick.
The N.C. Court of Appeals sent the matter back to the Industrial Commission in December 2008, saying that it had not made the necessary findings of fact required to support its decision. It is the second time the appeals court has ordered the commission to go back and make the proper findings.
For more on this story, see Friday's print edition of The Pilot.
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