[ RadSafe ] High court backs 'sloshed' trucker - State justices: Hauler of OR waste disabled, due workers' comp
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Thu Dec 1 14:53:06 CST 2005
High court backs 'sloshed' trucker - State justices: Hauler of OR waste
disabled, due workers' comp
Knoxville News Sentinel
By JAMIE SATTERFIELD, satterfield at knews.com
December 1, 2005
When William H. "Red" Saylor was "sloshed" with what he believed was
radioactive waste, he freaked out. And, in an opinion released
Wednesday, the [Tennessee] state Supreme Court is holding his employer
In an opinion drafted by Justice Janice M. Holder, the state's high
court upheld a lower court ruling that Saylor, though not physically
injured, was rendered mentally disabled by the June 1999 incident and is
entitled to collect workers' compensation from Lakeway Trucking Inc. in
Morristown. "We conclude that the record and the applicable law support
the trial court's determination that the employee's mental injuries
arose out of and in the course of his employment and that the employee
is 100 percent permanently disabled with respect to his mental
faculties," Holder wrote.
J. Eric Harrison, a Morristown lawyer who represented the 65-year-old
Saylor with attorney J. Randall Shelton, said his client will be
"thrilled" at the news. "Obviously, we're pleased and glad it was
upheld," Harrison said. "This was an extremely complex and interesting
Lakeway attorney Gene Paul Gaby was unavailable for comment Wednesday
Saylor has been a truck driver since he was 15. He dropped out of school
in the eighth grade. In June 1999 he was working as a truck driver for
Lakeway, which had been contracted to deliver hazardous waste from Oak
Ridge to a dump site in Clive, Utah.
According to the appellate court opinion, Saylor and fellow driver Lloyd
Orrick arrived at the site only to be turned away. "The workers at the
disposal site refused to accept either load and ordered Saylor to
transport the material from the area because of fears that the material
would explode," the opinion stated.
After the two truckers parked their rigs at a truck stop overnight and
returned to the dump site the next day, they were again turned away. The
pair returned to the truck stop. But as Saylor was backing up his rig,
"he saw Orrick standing near the trailer and waving his arms," the
opinion stated. As it turned out, the pod housing the liquid waste had
sprung a leak, Holder wrote.
Some of the sludgy waste splashed onto Orrick's shirt. Some "sloshed"
onto Saylor's face, chest and shirt, the court stated. "Saylor testified
that the liquid went in his mouth and on the side of his face, on his
chest and on his shirt," Holder wrote. "Saylor stated to Orrick, 'You've
got it on you, and it's going to kill you. Now, if it ain't killed me,
The two showered and contacted a Lakeway employee, who told the pair to
sit tight. Orrick apparently handled the wait far better than Saylor,
who the court said "felt ill and was afraid that he and Orrick might
die." Ultimately, Saylor's shirt was tested and the stuff on it deemed
not radioactive. But the court noted that it took "more than two weeks"
before Saylor "could be assured that his clothing provided no evidence
of radioactivity." By then, Saylor was already in the throes of what
doctors later diagnosed as post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety and
depression, the opinion stated. Neighbors and a caregiver testified that
Saylor was beset with anxiety and depression. He had such severe
nightmares that his caregiver often tied her ankle to his at night so he
wouldn't leap from the bed and hurt himself, the court wrote.
A key issue for the high court was whether Saylor's fears were rational,
noting that the court had refused to grant benefits in another case to a
medical employee who had an "irrational fear of exposure to HIV" after a
work-related incident. "In contrast, the hazardousness of the material
to which Saylor was exposed was not based upon mere speculation," the
court wrote. "The pods were labeled radioactive."
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