Case Results

312-425-3131

10 South LaSalle Street, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60603

211 Landmark Drive, Suite C2, Normal, IL 61761

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Theory of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Rejected by Arbitrator

The petitioner, a computer monitor for Bremen High School, alleged that on June 6, 1996 while in the school’s computer laboratory, she was sprayed with dust-off by one D. Jackson. She alleged that Mr. Jackson came up from behind her, placed the dust-off red straw in her ear and sprayed. Over the course of the next decade, the petitioner treated with numerous physicians and complained of itching in the right ear, burning in the eyes, itching in the face, head pain, headaches, sensation to flashing lights, facial numbness, dry mouth, lips and eyes, symptoms of arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, migraine headaches, difficulty with blurred vision, memory problems, confusion, and problems concentrating, and finally pain in the top of her head. In November of 2000 she solicited the services of Dr. Raymond Singer for an independent medical evaluation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Dr. Singer opined her symptoms were those of neurotoxicity and diagnosed her with multiple chemical sensitivity. At the respondent’s request, petitioner saw Dr. Shirley Conibear for an independent medical examination in November of 2000 and then again in April of 2007. Dr. Conibear opined that her review of the treating medical records did not support the petitioner’s contention that the straw-like device was placed in her ear. She reviewed in detail the material safety data sheets for difluoroethane, the chemical petitioner was sprayed with, opining that fluorocarbons are not well absorbed in the intact skin and further are the least toxic of the group of hydrofluorocarbons. She opined that if the petitioner had been sprayed in the right ear, she would have had signs of frostbite in the E.R., including redness, swelling and blotchiness as well as thawed tissue, but none of those were seen on initial examination. She diagnosed the petitioner with hypertension, neuralgia and dry eyes of unknown etiology, indicating her neurology and hypertension had no bearing to the alleged work accident.

Petitioner also saw Dr. David Hartman, neuropsychologist, on October 10, 2005 at the request of the respondent. Dr. Hartman opined that petitioner had no evidence of brain injury, was malingering, and out for secondary gain. He disagreed entirely with Dr. Singer’s opinions that the petitioner had significant exposure to difluoroethane and opined there was no literature, either scientific or clinical, supporting the multiple varied symptoms complained of by petitioner. He further found that Singer’s diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivity did not meet the standards of general acceptance and scientific adequacy in the medical community.

Both IME doctors testified consistent with their opinions.

Dr. Singer testified that his opinions were based entirely on the petitioner’s history that the red straw of the dust-off can was placed directly in her ear. He admitted on cross-examination that he is not a medical doctor or practicing physician and has never published any articles on single exposures to dust-off and difluoroethane. He further admitted he was not trained to review brain MRI films and admitted the controversy of his multiple chemical sensitivity diagnosis, fully unaware as to whether that diagnosis had ever even been accepted by the mainstream medical community, including the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Allergy or Immunology. He was also unaware that difluoroethane is largely considered the least toxic of the hydrogenated fluorocarbons and was unaware that difluoroethane is used in deodorants and hairspray and personal care products on a regular basis by millions of people around the world. He could not even cite any published literature regarding toxicity of difluoroethane.

J. Fox testified at trial for petitioner completely contradicting the petitioner’s account of the accident. She saw Jackson stand one foot away from petitioner and spray the can towards the petitioner’s ear, but the red straw was six to eight inches away from said ear.

Prior to trial, petitioner’s counsel had demanded 50% loss of use of the man as a whole, 150 weeks of TTD benefits, and $60,000.00 in medical bills. The Arbitrator rejected all of these assertions, awarding zero in medical, only 5/7 weeks of TTD benefits, and a minimal award on permanency of 10% loss of use of the left eye and 7.5% loss of use of the right eye. The respondent paid the award immediately and the petitioner, in the face of overwhelming evidence against her, both on accident, and medical causation, did not file an appeal with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association
  • DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar
  • The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association
  • DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar
  • The Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel
10 South LaSalle Street, Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: 312-425-3131
211 Landmark Drive, Suite C2
Normal, IL 61761
Phone: 309-862-4914
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