A recent N.C. Court of Appeals ruling upheld a finding by the N.C. Industrial Commission to award attorney fees to a permanently disabled worker who contracted asbestosis and silicosis as a result of his employment.
The N.C. Industrial Commission ruled on the case involving FMC Corporation and an employee. In October 2011, the N.C. Industrial Commission found that the man had been "permanently and totally disabled as a result of his asbestosis" as of June 18, 2006.
The commission awarded the man permanent total disability benefits at a rate of $730 per week for the remainder of his life. The man was also awarded "a reasonable attorney's fee of $12,000, not to be deducted from the sums due to Plaintiff."
The defendant, FMC Corporation, appealed the decision to award attorney's fees, citing N.C. General Statute 97-88.1, which states that if the Industrial Commission finds that a case "has been brought, prosecuted, or defended without reasonable ground, it may assess the whole cost of the proceedings including reasonable fees for defendant's attorney or plaintiff's attorney." FMC Corporation contended that the case was defended on reasonable grounds, and therefore, it should not have to pay attorney fees.
The N.C. Court of Appeals reviewed testimony presented about the man's injuries and concluded that "the expert medical testimony in this case demonstrates that there was no genuine basis for Defendant's denial or defense of Plaintiff's claim."