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Hepatitis C Presumption Upheld in Philadelphia Case

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has upheld the widow of a Philadelphia firefighter in her claim that her husband’s Hepatitis C was contracted in the line of duty.

Joseph Kriebel served as a Philadelphia firefighter from 1974 until 2003. He passed away on October 25, 2004, from liver disease caused by Hepatitis C. Patricia Kriebel, filed a workers’ compensation claim following his death claiming that his disease and death were job related.

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act identifies Hepatitis C as an “occupational disease” for career and volunteer firefighters, and section 301(e) of the Act creates a rebuttable presumption that an occupational disease is causally related to employment.

The city countered Mrs. Kriebel’s claim with evidence from her husband’s military medical file dating back to 1969 indicating that he suffered “serum hepatitis from drug usage”. Unable to produce the doctor who made the note, the city found an expert witness, Dr. Stephen J. Gluckman, M.D, who concluded that Kriebel’s hepatitis was due to intravenous drug usage not exposure as a firefighter.

The Workers Compensation Board concluded Dr. Gluckman’s opinion was based on pure speculation from the note and lacked a factual basis. The city appealed, and a lower Pennsylvania court agreed with the city.

On Mrs. Kriebel’s appeal the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the Workers Comp decision, concluding “This Court has stated that reliance on a “presumption on a presumption,” as Employer’s expert has done herein, must be condemned as the height of “irresponsible speculation.”…  Accordingly, we find that Dr. Gluckman’s opinion, which lacks an adequate factual foundation, constitutes nothing but conjecture and speculation.”

Without Dr. Gluckman’s testimony, the statutory presumption was enough for Mrs. Kriebel to prevail on her claim.

To read the Supreme Court decision, click here.

More news on the decision.


Comments - Add Yours

  • B.Novak

    I like the above gent, Mr. Kriebel am from Phila. PA. I also had drug usage from late 1960′s. I am became a healthcare worker in later years working around blood & emergency rooms. I don’t believe all those Phila. firemen & women were IV drug users or is the main common issue among them. I believe it is the fact that many of us working in field in 1985 were given a HEP B VACCINE that was made with a LIVE VIRUS at that time unlike today & also they were unaware of HEP C then as well. I believe there is a good possibility why all these firemen may have come down with HEP C is from the LIVE VIRUS HEP B VACCINE given to health care workers starting in 1985. They NOW make the vaccine with a SYNTHETIC FORM of the B virus. WHY did they stop using the LIVE VIRUS FORM?? We need this to be looked at more in depth as the pharmaceutical companies as well as the employers could be held liable. They just look to lay it off on some who had drug usage at a earlier time in their lives but not all these folks were drug users. The MAIN thing they have in common is working in the health field and/or receiving the old type LIVE HEP B VACCINE.It was sstill nice to see above case that it was speculation that it was SOLEY drug usage that caused the mans Hep C virus. There was no way to prove that it was just that. So the wife’s case moved forward.