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The Supreme Court upholds the sentence for workers with hearing impairments



The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of a hearing-impaired worker for 30 years as head of security for various employers.

Dennis Sershen began his career in 1986 at Streater Inc., an in-store inventory maker, where he spent 10 to 15 hours a week doing daily reviews in noisy areas. In 1994, Sershen moved to Truth Hardware Corp., a company that manufactured window and door accessories, where the average noise level was well over 90 decibels. It was during his time at Truth that Mr Sershen noticed hearing loss, according to Sershen v. Metropolitan Council, filed in St. Paul.

Mr. Sershen then worked for SPX Corp. from 2001 to 2008, where he was exposed to extremely loud noise for eight to 1

0 hours a day. After that, he worked for three months at ATEK Cos., An aluminum foundry where he was also exposed to loud noise.

He most recently worked for the Metropolitan Council, where from 2008 he mainly worked in an office and was exposed to little or no potentially dangerous noise. However, he visited noisy workplaces.

Following his retirement in 2017, Sershen filed a claim for damages against all of his employers for hearing loss, claiming compensation for medical expenses and permanent partial disability benefits.

A tort judge found that Sershen had suffered from a professional hearing loss. While the judge found that Sershen was exposed to dangerous levels of noise at all five employers, the judge determined that his last significant exposure was during his employment at SPX.

Although he found that Sershen’s work at the Metropolitan Council “did not contribute significantly to his hearing loss”, the judge ordered medical benefits to be paid because he was last exposed to dangerous noise there. This was stated by the Occupational Injuries Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of Minnesota agreed to this and stated that state law states that the employer where the employee was last exposed to the danger “shall” pay the medical costs.

The Medical Benefits Act further stipulates that the employer for the most recent exposure is entitled to compensation from the employer with the last significant exposure, but “only in the event of invalidity”, the court ruled.

WorkCompCentral is a sister magazine to Business Insurance. More stories here.


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