Cynthia Churchill vs. DBI Services, LLC, and CorVel Corporation
OJCC Case #21-001581FJC
A chemical exposure by any other name is still a chemical exposure, which
requires the claimant to demonstrate a compensable accident by clear and
Claimant, a rest area custodian charged with cleaning the rest area facilities,
mixed unknown chemicals in unknown amounts. Those substances generated
some type of chemical reaction that reportedly caused a respiratory reaction,
which resulted in a five-day hospitalization. When the chemical reaction
occurred, claimant immediately poured out the mixture after being generally
exposed for upwards of 15 minutes.
The incident was unwitnessed. Claimant did not know what was in the container
or the amounts of any chemicals already in the container. There was no
evidence that established the nature of the chemical reaction or what
comprised the resulting gasses.
It was claimant’s position that she did not need to prove anything
by clear and convincing evidence because claimant did not suffer a chemical
exposure injury. Instead, claimant alleged she suffered an unexpected
incident that occurred suddenly, which resulted in an injury as opposed
to a repetitive type of cumulative exposure that generally is seen in
exposure types of cases.
The judge of compensation claims found that even by claimant’s own
statements and testimony, she was injured by exposure to unknown chemicals.
Since claimant was unable to identify any of the chemical agents in the
container or any agents that were associated with the gaseous reaction,
she was incapable of meeting her elevated burden of proof.
Although they agreed that claimant was the victim of a chemical exposure,
claimant’s own experts were unable to identify any chemicals in
the mixture, the quantity of any individual chemicals within the mixture,
the nature of the chemical reaction, or a quantifiable amount to which
claimant was exposed. Therefore, those experts’ testimony also failed
to meet the clear and convincing evidentiary standard.
As a consequence, claimant was unable to meet her elevated burden of proof
of clear and convincing evidence. The judge denied the claim with prejudice.
Any questions about the case and its holding or any questions generally
about the “chemical exposure” arena? Feel free to contact
the firm’s senior partner, Keith Pallo, at (561) 624-1051 or email
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