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Supreme Court Rules Firefighter with Brain Cancer Is Entitled to Compensation

The Nevada Supreme Court recently issued a decision in favor of a firefighter to receive workers’ compensation coverage in connection to brain cancer, despite arguments that his condition did not qualify for presumption that it arose during the course of or as a result of his employment. The unanimous ruling was issued on May 3rd.

According to court documents, the plaintiff was a Las Vegas firefighter who was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumor. It is the most aggressive form of cancer that initially affects the brain.

Following his diagnosis, the firefighter filed a workers’ compensation claim for benefits, stating that the cancer constituted an occupational disease. However, that claim was turned down by his employer on the basis that he had not been employed as a firefighter for over 5 years and therefore could not have developed an occupational disease resulting from his work.

Understanding Nevada Workers’ Compensation Laws for Firefighters

Per Nevada workers’ compensation laws, firefighters are presumed to have developed an occupational disease if there have been:

  • Employed continuously as a firefighter for 5 or more years; and
  • Developed cancer after having been exposed to known carcinogens in the course of performing their jobs

In defense, the man’s employer argued that this presumption of an occupational disease was not applicable to this case and that, despite expert testimony showing that the man’s cancer was caused by exposure he endured during his time as a firefighter, could not prove that it was related to his job.

Ultimately, the case found its way to the Nevada Supreme Court, where all presiding judges ruled in favor of the firefighter. In their opinion, justices noted that even though the presumption as defined by Nevada law did not apply to the man’s case, the firefighter was still able to sufficiently illustrate that his brain cancer was caused by his disease, a requirement under other Nevada laws governing occupational disease.

The man in this case, justices ruled, satisfied all elements of proving that his cancer was work-related, including a direct connection between the cancer and work performed, exposure to carcinogens common in firefighting, proximate cause, and that the cancer did not result from exposure outside of the workplace.

Cancer and Chronic Illness Presumptions in Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation laws throughout the United States provide a legal framework that allows injured workers to receive financial compensation for work-related injuries or illnesses. While many states have similar provisions, certain states have adopted specific laws pertaining to cancer and chronic illness presumptions for firefighters and other first responders.

In Nevada, the law states that firefighters are presumed to have developed an occupational disease if they have been employed continuously as a firefighter for five or more years and develops cancer after having been exposed to known carcinogens in the course of performing their duties.

The Importance of the Recent Workers’ Compensation Decision in Nevada

The decision is an important ruling when it comes to workers’ compensation coverage in Nevada, as it establishes precedent in cases involving occupational disease and employers who deny claims on the basis that they do not meet the statutory presumption that a condition is work-related.

Our Las Vegas workers’ compensation attorneys pay close attention to these and other major decisions involving workers’ compensation – as well as personal injury law – in order to provide our clients with the most up-to-date and insightful representation possible.

If you have questions regarding a disease that may have resulted from conditions in the workplace, our legal team is available to help. Contact us for a free workers’ comp consultation.


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