Ex parte Valdez

In Ex parte Valdez, 636 So. 2d 401 (Ala. 1994) the widow and children of an employee who died of lung cancer sued for workers' compensation, alleging that the employee's exposure to an occupational hazard (coal-tar epoxy) had caused his cancer and his eventual death. 636 So. 2d at 402. The record indicated the employee had had other nonoccupational hazards, including tobacco use and a genetic predisposition. Id. at 403. No medical expert could conclusively say whether exposure to coal-tar epoxy, or any other particular factor, had caused the employee's cancer. Id. at 403. The trial court in Valdez held that because the plaintiffs had failed to prove that the claimed occupational hazard directly or proximately caused the employee's illness and death, they could not collect benefits. 636 So. 2d at 403. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed, applying the same standard. Ex parte Valdez, 636 So. 2d 398, 401 (Ala.Civ.App. 1993). The Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case, holding that both the trial court and the Court of Civil Appeals had used the wrong analysis. Recognizing that multiple factors may have caused the employee's cancer, we held that the correct standard was whether exposure to the occupational hazard was a contributing cause of the employee's illness and resultant death. 636 So. 2d at 403.