Submitted: June 2, 2005
FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND
Over a period of approximately seven years (1991-1998) while
working on a farm and ranch, the claimant experienced
sneezing, a stuffy nose, runny eyes, chest tightness, and a
cough whenever exposed to grain dust and hay. His symptoms
were relieved by over-the-counter medications and therefore
temporary. He sought no medical care at the time. However,
over the years he experienced increasing shortness of breath
and in 2004 he was hospitalized with pulmonary hypertension
and obstructive lung disease. He then submitted a claim for
occupational disease benefits. The claim was denied based on
the one-year limitations period found in section 39-72-403,
MCA (2003), and for lack of a causal connection between his
current condition and his work.
The claim was timely filed as the claimant did not recognize
he had an occupational disease while working. The testimony
of his treating pulmonologist provides persuasive evidence
that his work exposure to grain dust and hay permanently
aggravated and worsened his lung condition. He is therefore
entitled to benefits.
Limitations Periods: Occupational Disease.
The one-year limitations period in section 39-72-403, MCA
(1995-2003), does not begin to run until the claimant
recognizes he suffers from a specific and permanent medical
condition requiring medical treatment. Taking
over-the-counter medications which provide symptomatic relief
of symptoms does not constitute medical treatment and the
claimant's association of symptoms which are relieved by
over-the-counter medications to his work does not constitute
knowledge that he is suffering from an occupational disease.
Occupational Disease: Causation. Causation
is found where the treating pulmonologist provides persuasive
and reasoned testimony that the cumulative effect of the
claimant's work exposure to grain dust caused permanent
obstructive lung disease.
The trial in this matter was held in Great Falls, Montana, on
June 2, 2005. The petitioner was present and represented by
Ms. Sara R. Sexe. The respondent was represented by Mr. David
Exhibits: Exhibits 1 through 27 were admitted
Witnesses and Depositions: Petitioner, Robert Noel,
Laura Mack, and Robert Grasseschi, M.D. testified. In
addition the parties filed depositions of the petitioner and
Dr. T. Shull Lemire for the Court to consider.
Issues Presented: The Court restates the issues as
¶4a Whether the petitioner's claim is
¶4b Whether the petitioner's current pulmonary
conditions are causally related to his exposure to grain dust
while working for Noel Ranch.
Having considered the Pretrial Order, the testimony presented
at trial, the demeanor and credibility of the witnesses, the
depositions and exhibits, and the ...