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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

City Must Pay Benefits to Firefighter With Cancer

(CN) - A Las Vegas firefighter is entitled to workers' compensation benefits under the presumption that she developed breast cancer through exposure to carcinogens at work, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled.

Robin Lawson started working as a firefighter in 1992, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer five years later. She missed nine months of work for treatment, which included a lumpectomy, and then underwent a double mastectomy in 2005 when the cancer came back.

After Lawson's oncologist told her to stop working because he felt her cancer was related to her job as a firefighter, Lawson filed a workers' compensation claim.

The city twice denied her claim as untimely and refutable, noting that Lawson was first diagnosed in 1997 and she could not demonstrate a connection between her cancer and the chemicals to which she was exposed on the job.

An appeals officer overturned the ruling, citing that Lawson's claim was timely because she did not become aware of the connection between her job and the cancer until 2005.

The officer also ruled that Lawson was exposed to toxic benzene and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) during her employment.

The trial court denied the city's request for judicial review, and a three-judge appellate panel affirmed the decision with one correction.

"The district court incorrectly found that both benzene and PAHs were known carcinogens - only benzene fits the statutory definition of a known carcinogen," Justice James Hardesty wrote for the court. "Despite this, the court came to the correct conclusion that Lawson was exposed to known carcinogens that were reasonably associated with breast cancer. This court will affirm a district court's order if the district court reached the correct result, even if for the wrong reason."

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