Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Miner wins case over black-lung evidence

By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Kentucky's "black lung" law unfairly limits the amount of X-ray evidence a coal miner can use in trying to prove a case for workers' compensation, the state Court of Appeals has ruled.

Miners who lose their claim are thereby denied a meaningful opportunity to rebut the decision, the court's majority ruling said.

The ruling was made by the entire 14-member court.

The case pitted Gordon Bartrum against the Workers' Compensation Board, an administrative law judge and Bartrum's employer, Hunter Excavating.

At issue was a section of the law that allows a black-lung claimant and the claimant's employer to each submit a single lung X-ray and physician's report. If findings differ, the X-rays are submitted to three randomly selected experts for a consensus ruling that is legally presumed correct.

Bartrum, who lost his claim, had submitted three X-rays but a law judge permitted the use of just one. On appeal, Bartrum said the restriction violated his constitutional right to due process.

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