The normal statute of limitations for filing a death claim under the New York State Workers’ Compensation Act is two years, calculated from the date of death.
In 2005, our client came to Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford seeking compensation for her husband’s 1999 death. Her husband spent his career working in the coke ovens at Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, New York.
Although he was a non-smoker, this dedicated husband and father developed lung cancer from his exposure to the coke oven emissions. Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford had the case reviewed by an expert who concluded that her husband’s death was caused by occupational exposure to coke oven emissions. The widow had no reason to know this prior to the expert consultation.
Because of this, Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford was able to file a death claim a full eight years after the death, and we were able to obtain a lump sum compensation settlement of $116,000 continuing with weekly benefits of nearly $300.
Although the standard statute of limitations is two years, under these circumstances we were able to argue that the two year statute of limitation should be measured from the date of the claim that his death was work related.
In 1977, the federal government knowing that coke oven emissions could cause cancer, predicted that several hundred coke oven workers would die annually. It has been well documented, as far back as the 1950s, that there were severe health dangers associated with working in the coke ovens, and yet no precautions were taken to inform or protect coke oven workers.
Many of the men and women who worked in the coke ovens at Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna, New York, have died of lung cancer.