City of Nichols Hills v. Hill
Oklahoma Supreme Court
534 P.2d 931 (1975)
Robert Hill (plaintiff) was employed as a maintenance worker by the City of Nichols Hills (defendant). Hill’s duties included mowing lots in the city using a tractor-style lawnmower. On May 25, 1970, Hill’s supervisor told him to mow several overgrown lots in an area with many birds and birds’ nests. Because the day was dry and windy, the lawnmower disturbed a large amount of dust. After Hill finished mowing, he experienced extreme thirst; difficulty breathing; and dryness and burning in his nose, throat, and lungs. Hill worked the following day but did not return to work after that point. Hill sought medical treatment and was eventually diagnosed with histoplasmosis, an infection that can be caused by inhaling fungal spores found in dust from soil that contains bird droppings. The histoplasmosis left Hill totally disabled, and he sought workers’-compensation benefits from the city. At hearings on Hill’s benefits application, Hill presented evidence that his exposure to the dust on May 25 led to his histoplasmosis infection. The city presented expert medical testimony that Hill’s lung X-rays revealed calcification, suggesting that Hill had been suffering from histoplasmosis prior to May 25. However, one of the experts admitted on cross-examination that the calcification could have occurred in a shorter timeframe. The trial court awarded benefits after finding that Hill had sustained an accidental injury while performing his work due to his exposure to contaminated dust that caused or aggravated a histoplasmosis infection. The State Industrial Court affirmed, and the city asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to review and vacate the compensation award.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Barnes, J.)
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