New York Nurse Awarded 90% Loss of Wage-Earning Capacity Due to Allergic Reaction to Hand Sanitizer

A New York appellate court affirmed a finding by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board that a former critical care nurse suffered a work-related 90 percent loss of wage-earning capacity where she presented evidence that she had several allergic reactions to the hand sanitizer used at the hospital that employed her and that even when she stopped working there, she continued to have airway dysfunction syndrome and a chronic cough triggered by talking or laughing [Baczuk v. Good Samaritan Hosp., 2015 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 7255, 2015 NY Slip Op 07313 (Oct. 8, 2015)].

The court found the Board’s decision supported by evidence that the claimant had only been able to secure part-time work as a cashier at a department store. That job paid $8 per hour, whereas her nursing salary had been more than $2,300 per week. The court acknowledged that the former employer presented a labor market survey and testimony of a consultant that tended to show the claimant could still work as a nurse. The Board was within its discretion, however, in choosing to discredit the evidence. The consultant, for example, conceded that he had never met the claimant.  The court added that there was overwhelming medical evidence that, even after the claimant was no longer exposed to the hand sanitizer, she continued to suffer from prolonged bouts of coughing frequently brought on by talking or laughing, which was an impediment to her ability to perform her job as a nurse.

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