Occupational Diseases and South Carolina Workers Compensation: Muir v. C.R. Bard

08-5-2020
Healthcare Workers and Coronavirus

Occupational Diseases and South Carolina Workers Compensation: Muir v. C.R. Bard

1. What is Workers Compensation?

The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows employees who are injured on the job to recover for their lost wages and medical expenses. The workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system, meaning that an employee does not need to show that their employer was negligent or otherwise at fault for their injuries. Additionally, even employees who are partially at fault for their injuries may still be eligible for compensation.

 

2. The History of South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act

When the Workers’ Compensation Act passed in 1936, it did a good job of covering most common workplace injuries, such as when a worker fell off a ladder and broke his arm. However, not all workplace injuries occur immediately. Occupational diseases such as black lung from coal mining, silicosis from sandblasting, and brown lungs from working in the cotton mills developed slowly following years of exposure.

The Workers’ Compensation Act was amended in 1946 to provide coverage for occupational diseases; however, it was tough to get compensation for occupational diseases subject to so many special rules and conditions, thus preventing adequate coverage for employees. Our client, D. Muir, had just such an injury.

 

3. The Case for Occupational Diseases: Muir v. C.R. Bard

Mr. Muir’s job was to inspect failed catheters. He would often get pricked with needles and received cuts on his skin over his many years of inspecting catheters. At first, Mr. Muir started receiving abnormal blood test results in the early 1980s but was able to keep working. It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that he became sicker and was diagnosed with hepatitis C. Then, his disease progressed to aplastic anemia and then to another disease called myelodysplasia, thus leaving him disabled. The problem was nobody knew when Mr. Muir was exposed to the hepatitis virus while on the job. According to the doctors, it probably took ten years for the disease to disable him.

Steinberg Law Firm attorneys, David Pearlman and Kevin Holmes took on Mr. Muir’s occupational disease case in 1993. The Steinberg Law Firm attorneys hired a medical toxicologist to conduct an exhaustive medical background check to exclude other possible causes for his infection, such as a contaminated blood transfusion. Our attorneys had to prove he likely contracted the virus while performing his job because his employer claimed the catheters underwent sterilization before inspections.

The Steinberg Law Firm attorneys showed that the sterilization process used was not sufficient to kill all the viruses. Finally, our attorneys had to prove the two-year statute of limitations didn’t bar Mr. Muir’s claim for filing a South Carolina workers’ compensation claim. Building on earlier cases handled by the Steinberg Law Firm, attorneys Pearlman and Holmes argued that Mr. Muir’s “injury” did not occur when Mr. Muir became exposed to the virus but became sick and disabled. They feverishly fought for justice and won Mr. Muir’s case for ten years before the Commission, the Circuit Court, and finally, the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

 

4. Protection for Exposed Healthcare Workers

The ruling of Muir’s case helped to pave the path for the rights of all healthcare workers who face exposure to infectious diseases while performing their essential jobs. During this global pandemic, healthcare workers are at higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus disease (COVID -19) while treating sick patients in our hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes. Because of D. Muir and the hard work of the Steinberg Law Firm attorneys, healthcare workers exposed to coronavirus disease on the job may recover weekly compensation benefits and medical treatment under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.

5. Get Help Now

While any South Carolina worker’s compensation case can be complex, this is especially the case given the unprecedented situation the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis presents. The attorneys at Steinberg Law Firm, LLP, are here to help you and your family through this difficult time. We represent South Carolina healthcare workers and other essential employees who have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19). Even if you are not certain where you contracted the virus, we can help. Our compassionate team of South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers recognize the difficulties all healthcare workers are facing, and cater our representation accordingly, making sure to answer all your questions in a straightforward and understandable way. To learn more, call 843-720-2800 to schedule a free consultation today.

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