'Kentucky Needs New Law for Disputed Black Lung Claims'- Dept of Workers' Claims

Jun 23, 2014


A miner at the Black Lung Laboratory in the Appalachian Regional Hospital in Beckley, West Virginia, is having his lung capacity tested to determine whether he has the disease. Blood samples also are taken and his heartbeat is monitored while walking on a treadmill. These and other known testing methods are used to determine if miners have coal dust particles in their lungs which cause a progressive shortness of breath.
Credit Jack Corn / Environmental Protection Agency-National Archives

Kentucky coal miners seeking workers compensation for black lung may get a new way to battle denied claims.

In a 2011 Kentucky Supreme Court case of Vision Mining, Inc v. Gardner, the state’s highest court found that the methodology for reaching consensus on disputed X-rays of coal miners with black lung was unconstitutional.

Department of Workers’ Claims Commissioner Dwight Lovan says the ruling affects about 3,000 finalized black lung claims over the past decade.

Lovan says new legislation will likely be required to address Kentucky’s claims process for determining black lung disease. He told a legislative committee last week the state will need new laws to handle claims filed prior to the court’s ruling.

“But that’s going to be an issue that’s out there whether there’s legislation or not,” said Lovan.

“I know that there’s at least one case at the Court of Appeals that address that issue, went through the board level, and it’s now at the Court of Appeals to try to get a decision on that.”

Lovan says the ruling stipulates that claims of pneumoconiosis or black lung disease, must be evaluated like any other lung disease.

“Those that represented the interest or philosophy of the employee’s believed that whatever might be enacted should be applied retroactively to all of those claims. The coal industry did not think that their industry could withstand that.”