Pearson v. Johnson Controls, Northern N.M., L.L.C.

255 P.3d 318, 149 N.M. 740 (2011)

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Pearson v. Johnson Controls, Northern N.M., L.L.C.

New Mexico Court of Appeals
255 P.3d 318, 149 N.M. 740 (2011)

Facts

Marc Pearson (plaintiff) was employed by Johnson Controls, Northern N.M., L.L.C. (Johnson) (defendant) as a welder. Pearson had more than 32 years of experience. Pearson suffered from a preexisting lung condition due to poor ventilation in a prior job. In October 2002, Pearson was directed by Johnson to weld braces in a poorly ventilated house. Despite Pearson’s objections, Johnson directed him to continue the job. Pearson’s lung condition worsened until he could no longer work as a welder. On August 20, 2003, Pearson filed a workers’-compensation claim. On February 27, 2009, the claim was brought before a workers’-compensation judge (WCJ) for trial. Pearson testified no physician outright told him to stop welding. The WCJ considered Pearson’s medical records and testimony, physician depositions, and other documents. The medical records revealed that, from 1998 until at least 2003, Pearson had been advised by several physicians of the dangers of exposure to fumes, the desirability of less hazardous career choices, and the importance of proper ventilation. Pearson previously took nonwelding jobs on the advice of his physicians to prevent exposure, but he had to go back to welding for financial reasons. Pearson worked welding jobs in the past without having a flare-up of symptoms. The WCJ found that Pearson’s actions constituted willful self-exposure and denied benefits. The WCJ reasoned that Pearson continued to take welding jobs in reckless disregard of warnings by his physicians. Pearson appealed, arguing that the facts did not support a finding of willful self-exposure, and even if willful, there was reasonable justification that made compensation proper.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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