Bena v. Massachusetts Turnpike Authority

A pack-and-one-half per day smoker who had smoked for 30 years quit smoking in 1981.  She was an employee of the MTA and worked in its Weston office between 1980 and 1986.  She testified that she had no respiratory or pulmonary symptomatology when she quit smoking in 1981 but, by 1988, had developed chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD).  In 1986 she had been transferred to a small, smoke-filled trailer in Auburn; her symptomatology became so severe that she was forced to leave work on May 6, 1988.  She applied for workers’ compensation benefits.  An administrative judge of the DIA found on October 2, 1991 that “the employee was capable of gainful employment with the restrictions that . . . . she not be exposed to smoke in her work environment” and that “the employee’s disability bears a direct, causal relationship to her heavy passive smoke inhalation over a number of years . . . . . which had served to aggravate her underlying condition of COPD.”  The judge also found that “passive smoking played a ‘large’ role in the employee’s disability” and awarded her benefits.  See “MTA Worker to Get Benefits with Secondhand Smoke Ruling,” Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette, December 9, 1991, A3; “Smoke Victim Eligible for Benefits,” Athol (MA) Daily News, December 6, 1991, 8; “Attorney: Passive-Smoke Award Is a First,” Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, December 23, 1991, 27; and “2nd-hand Smoke Claims a Price,” Worcester (MA) Sunday Telegram, February 16, 1992, 1.

7.1 TPLR 8.1, No. 03922088 (Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents 1991).