The Connecticut Supreme Court has affirmed the ruling of the Compensation Review Board awarding workers’ compensation benefits to a former longtime Electric Boat employee who died of lung cancer in 2012.
Originally, the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner for the Eighth District ruled against the estate of Donald Filosi Jr., and in favor of Electric Boat, a company that designs and builds nuclear submarines.
But that ruling was appealed by the family and the review board reversed the commissioner’s ruling.
In a 5-0 ruling on Sept. 18 by the Connecticut Supreme Court, Chief Justice Richard Robinson wrote: “The plaintiffs contend that the record in the present case demonstrates that the administrative law judge relied on the plaintiff’s medical experts and found that asbestos exposure was a substantial factor contributing to the decedent’s lung cancer. We agree with the plaintiff.”
The case is now remanded back to the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, where it will be determined how much in weekly benefits the family was entitled to over the course of their lifetime, and for how long.
The family had already secured compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Katherine Filosi, Donald Filosi’s wife, then sought to collect workers’ compensation. Katherine Filosi died of lung cancer herself during the appeal. The couple’s son, Daniel, was named executor of the estate after his mother died.
“This is a fantastic win. We are very happy and Daniel is very happy,” said Amity Arscott, the Groton-based attorney for the family. “I think the message here is that Electric Boat made a business decision to continue using asbestos when they knew it was harmful.” Today, Arscott, an attorney with Embry & Neusner, said the industry in general uses asbestos on a limited basis.
Donald Filosi was a smoker and Electric Boat had argued that the asbestos on its premises was not a contributing factor in him contacting lung cancer and subsequently dying from it. According the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling, Filosi was a heavy smoker of cigarettes from age 14 until his death at age 69. He did stop smoking periodically, the court said.
At a hearing on the LHWCA claims, Dr. Laura Welch, who is board certified in internal medicine and occupational medicine, testified that “smoking contributed to [the decedent's] lung cancer, but his asbestos exposure was a substantial contributing cause.”
Filosi worked as a rigger in Electric Boat’s shipyard from 1961 through 1998, when he retired. According to court papers filed on behalf of the family, Filosi moved heavy machinery and equipment on and off of submarines. His job, the court papers said, required the dumping of 55-gallon barrels of asbestos-containing refuse from the submarines. The Groton-based company is on a submarine base.
Arscott said she is hoping to get on the workers’ compensation asbestos docket within the month. “They are quite diligent in getting things scheduled,” she said.
Electric Boat was represented by Peter Quay of the Norwich-based Law Office of Peter D. Quay. Quay did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. In addition, Electric Boat’s public affairs department declined to comment.