Firefighter Loses Hepatitis C Claim

Shayne Murphy began working as firefighter and EMT for the City of Grand Island, Nebraska in 1982. In 2002, he tested positive for Hepatitis C, and began an action against the City in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court. When his claim was denied, Murphy appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The Court held that Murphy was unable to prove that his work as a firefighter and an EMT caused his Hepatitis C. While Murphy argued that his occupation as an EMT placed him at greater risk for contracting Hepatitis C, the Court observed that “Murphy’s argument fails to recognize the problem was not that he failed to prove the date and time he contracted Hepatitis C, but that he failed to prove it was more likely than not that he contracted Hepatitis C during the course and scope of employment with the City. Murphy failed to establish that he was ever exposed to a patient who was infected with Hepatitis C.

“When Murphy was exposed to blood or bodily fluids during his employment, there was no evidence of piercing of his skin by a sharp object, nor was there any persuasive evidence that blood was splashed onto a portion of his skin which was broken, cut, or otherwise presented an open entry point. The evidence also showed that Murphy had engaged in a number of activities over the course of his life that might have exposed him to Hepatitis C. These activities included his participation in ‘golden gloves’ boxing and football. Murphy was frequently exposed to blood, saliva, and the fluids of his boxing opponents and teammates. For all these reasons, we conclude that the Workers’ Compensation Court did not make a mistake in finding insufficient evidence that Murphy’s Hepatitis C was caused by his job.”

Murphy v. City of Grand Island, 274 Neb. 670 (Neb. 2007).

This article appears in the March 2008 issue