Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Peabody Coal Co. v. Director, OWCP (9th Cir. - April 1, 2014)

We don't get that many Black Lung Benefits Act cases out here in the Ninth Circuit.  Compared to, say, the Third or Fourth Circuits.  But when we get 'em, we have to decide them.

Robert Opp worked as a coal miner for 39 years.  He was also around a pack-a-day smoker during this period.  He developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease -- COPD.  He applied for benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act, claiming that his COPD was caused or aggravated by his employment in the coal mines.  Peabody Coal opposed his application, contending that Opp's COPD was solely due to smoking.

The Administrative Law Judge gave Opp benefits.  The Benefits Review Board affirmed the ALJ's decision.  Peabody Coal appealed to the Ninth Circuit.  Which didn't feel a need for oral argument to resolve the case.  (Though the Ninth Circuit did inexplicably require nearly nine months after the submission date to finish its opinion.)

As for how the Ninth Circuit came out, see if you can guess.  With the hints that:  (1) it's the Ninth Circuit, and (2) the author of the opinion is Judge Pregerson.

Yep.  You're right.

No April Foolin'.