On May 3, 2013, in a unanimous decision, a panel of the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Las Vegas firefighter, holding that he is entitled to workers' compensation benefits for brain cancer even though he does not qualify for a rebuttable presumption that his illness was caused by his work as a firefighter.

The case involving firefighter, Kevin Evans, arose after it was discovered that he was suffering from a Glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer. Mr. Evans filed a claim for occupational disease which was turned down by his employer's noting that Mr. Evans had not been employed for five years or more as a firefighter and, therefore, could not have suffered an occupational disease as a result of his employment as a firefighter.

Under Nevada law, a firefighter who has been continuously employed as firefighter for five years or more who has been exposed to certain cancer causing chemicals and later develops cancer is presumed to have developed the cancer as a result of his or her occupational duties. Evans employer also argued that because the presumption did not apply, Evans could not otherwise prove Evans' cancer was related to his employment as a firefighter despite testimony from two cancer experts that the cancer was, in fact, caused by his work.

In finding in favor of Mr. Evans, Justice Nancy Saitta wrote that although the statutory presumption that a firefighters' cancer is related to his employment did not apply in this case, Evans could still prove his employment caused his disease through other Nevada statutes. These statutes -- which generally govern the acceptance of occupational diseases -- require the employee to prove:

  1. There is a direct causal connection between the conditions under which the work is performed and the occupational disease;
  2. It can be seen to have followed as a natural incident of the work as a result of the exposure occasioned by the nature of the employment;
  3. It can be fairly traced to the employment as the proximate cause; and
  4. It does not come from a hazard to which workers would have been equally exposed outside of the employment.

Justice Saitta went on to write that although "[t]he provisions of (NRS 617.358 and NRS 617.440(5)) provide that "[t]he requirements set forth in (the firefighter presumption statute) do not apply to claims filed pursuant to NRS 617.453 .... these statutes provide nothing more than the acknowledgement that one who seeks compensation under NRS 617.453 need not satisfy the requirements imposed by NRS 617.358 and NRS 617.440."

This decision is an important affirmation of a worker's rights to compensation after exposure to risks related to employment. If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury at work or have been exposed to dangerous conditions resulting in a disabling disease, please call our firm for a free consultation regarding your rights as an injured worker.

The citation for this decision is City of Las Vegas v. Evans, 129 Nev. Adv. Op. 31 (2013).