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Perfumeaggravated Preexisting Condition Found Compensable

Jon Gelman, Esq., publisher of Workers’ Compensation: Analysis of Trends and Developments in Workers’ Compensation Law Throughout the United States, recently blogged about a New Jersey case in which a nurse was awarded workers’ compensation benefits for a pre-existing pulmonary condition that was aggravated by exposure to perfume at work.

The facts of the case, as described by Gelman, are truly remarkable: The nurse was a 64-year-old woman who smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for more than 40 years, and, not surprisingly, suffered from a severe pre-existing obstructive lung disease when she began working for the employer.  Subsequently, in the course of her employment, she had a severe reaction when a co-worker sprayed herself with perfume on two occasions, and she eventually became “oxygen dependent” and was forced to stop working.

According to Gelman, the court found that “[t]he air [that the nurse] had to breathe . . . to fulfill her contract of service, contaminated by a co-employee, was a condition of [her] employment . . . and thus a risk of “this” employment.”  For this reason, the court ruled that the nurse suffered a compensable injury that entitled her to workers’ compensation benefits.  Not surprisingly, the court also explained that “[e]mployers take their employees as they find them, ‘with all of the pre-existing disease and infirmity that may exist.”

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