Several years ago, we related that the Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 46, which created a presumption that cancer suffered by veteran firefighters is related to their work duties. This amendment to the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act was largely cheered by all (other than workers’ comp insurers, of course!). The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania explained the presumption threshold as:
“(A) firefighter-claimant asserting a cancer claim under Section 108(r) of the Act, 77 P.S. §27.1(r), must first establish that he was diagnosed with a type of cancer possibly caused by one or more IARC Group 1 carcinogens.”
As with any legislation, there were differences in how the law should be interpreted. Certainly, we have had litigation regarding the types of cancer involved. But, another area of confusion developed due to the difference in how the law treats career firefighters, as opposed to volunteer firefighters. We discussed the 2017 decision of the Commonwealth Court in Steele v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Findlay Township) previously in our blog. The dispute in that case boiled down to the requirement that a volunteer firefighter must prove exposure to the carcinogen through reports filed under the Pennsylvania Fire Information Reporting System (PennFIRS).