[ RadSafe ] High court backs 'sloshed' trucker - State justices: Hauler of OR waste disabled, due workers' comp

Cindy Bloom radbloom at comcast.net
Thu Dec 1 15:21:49 CST 2005


This sure does underline the importance of training, putting risks in 
perspective and providing prompt as well as continuous information to 
workers who might be exposed to materials or environments that have a 
potential to cause harm if exposures are sufficiently high.


At 03:53 PM 12/1/2005 -0500, Susan Gawarecki wrote:
>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 responsible.
>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 
>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 case."
>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, too, now.'?"
>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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