(CN) - Coal miners should not be forced to take extra steps to collect workers' compensation, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled.
Jesse Gardner, 62, worked in the coal mines of Western Kentucky for 37 years. He filed a compensation claim for coal workers' pneumoconiosis, commonly known as black lung disease.
Gardner and his employer, Vision Mining, offered differing doctors' interpretations of Gardner's X-rays.
Kentucky law states that, in cases like this, the miner's X-rays must be submitted to a three-doctor panel to determine whether the miner actually has black lung disease.
The administrative law judge dismissed Gardner's claim after the panel voted 2-1 that Gardner did not have the disease.
The Workers' Compensation Board affirmed.
Gardner appealed the case, arguing that coal miners are not treated equally because workers in every other profession do not have to go before the panel.
The state appeals court agreed and reversed the board's decision.
"The only distinction between [black lung disease] claimants and other pneumoconiosis claimants is the source of the disease. In all other respects, the disease process and the nature, extent, and duration of the disease are the same," Judge James Lambert wrote.
"Imposing more onerous procedural and substantive burdens on coal workers than on others fails the test of 'reasonable and substantial difference in kind, situation, or circumstance,'" he wrote, quoting the Kentucky Supreme Court's 1994 opinion in Kentucky Harlan Coal Co. v. Holmes.
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