MARY ANN HATFIELD WIDOW OF JESSIE J. HATFIELD JR., Claimant Below, Petitioner
WEST VIRGINIA OFFICE OF INSURANCE COMMISSIONER Commissioner Below, Respondent and S & J MINING COMPANY, Employer Below, Respondent
Appeal No. 2050759, Claim No. 2013007425
Mary Ann Hatfield, widow of Jessie J. Hatfield Jr., by Robert
M. Williams, her attorney, appeals the decision of the West
Virginia Workers' Compensation Board of Review. The West
Virginia Office of the Insurance Commissioner, by Noah A.
Barnes, its attorney, filed a timely response.
appeal arises from the Board of Review's Final Order
dated February 23, 2016, in which the Board affirmed an
August 19, 2015, Order of the Workers' Compensation
Office of Judges. In its Order, the Office of Judges affirmed
the claims administrator's July 11, 2013, decision
denying a request for dependent's benefits. The Court has
carefully reviewed the records, written arguments, and
appendices contained in the briefs, and the case is mature
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of
the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented,
the Court finds no substantial question of law and no
prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision
is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate
Hatfield, a coal miner for over fifteen years, passed away on
August 9, 2011. The death certificate lists the cause of
death as congestive heart failure and atherosclerotic heart
disease. His widow filed an application for dependent's
benefits alleging Mr. Hatfield died as a result of an
occupational injury. It was noted that on June 24, 1986, the
Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board found sufficient evidence
to justify a diagnosis of occupational pneumoconiosis with no
pulmonary functional impairment attributable to the disease.
medical record dated January 8, 2000, indicated that Mr.
Hatfield underwent a coronary artery bypass graft performed
by Kourosh Ghalili, M.D. Mr. Hatfield was primarily diagnosed
with coronary artery disease. Secondary diagnoses included
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart
failure. Over ten years later, a chest x-ray taken on July
27, 2010, revealed that Mr. Hatfield developed cardiomegaly
with congestive heart failure and bilateral pleural effusion.
The report noted that Mr. Hatfield smoked two to three packs
of cigarettes a day since the age of twelve.
Hatfield was hospitalized eight times from July 27, 2010,
through August 9, 2011, when he passed away. Each time was
related to his diagnosis of congestive heart failure. On
March 25, 2011, Mr. Hatfield underwent a procedure for
implantation of a pacemaker. Medical records show his lungs
became increasingly opacified and the density of his
bilateral pleural effusions increased. Mr. Hatfield continued
to deteriorate until his death. After his death, James
Dennis, M.D., performed an autopsy on August 10, 2011. Dr.
Dennis concluded Mr. Hatfield died as a result of
occupational pneumoconiosis with complications by the
presence of macular development measuring greater than one
centimeter, indicative of progressive massive fibrosis.
Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board conducted a review of the
record and on May 21, 2013, determined that occupational
pneumoconiosis was not a material contributing factor in Mr.
Hatfield's death. The claims administrator denied Mrs.
Hatfield's application for dependent's benefits on
July 11, 2013.
record reviews were performed to determine whether Mr.
Hatfield's diagnosis of occupational pneumoconiosis
contributed to his death. Dominic Gaziano, M.D., performed a
review on April 6, 2014, and determined that Mr. Hatfield
died as a result of primarily congestive heart failure and
cardiomyopathy. However, Dr. Gaziano believed the autopsy
demonstrated that there was complicated pneumoconiosis
present and that it was a significant contributory factor in
Mr. Hatfield's death. On November 11, 2014, Gregory Fino,
M.D., performed a record review. Dr. Fino found that
occupational pneumoconiosis was not a material contributing
factor to Mr. Hatfield's death.
Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board held a hearing on June 3,
2015. Three doctors testified on behalf of the Occupational
Pneumoconiosis Board. John Willis, M.D., reviewed the medical
record and noted that while he did not disagree with a
diagnosis of simple occupational pneumoconiosis, there was
nothing present to suggest complicated occupational
pneumoconiosis. Jack Kinder, M.D., testified that there was
no correlation present between the autopsy findings and Mr.
Hatfield's most recent CT scans. A CT scan performed on
Mr. Hatfield should have shown progressive massive fibrosis
as listed in the autopsy, but it did not. He noted that Mr.
Hatfield was hospitalized numerous times because of his
congestive heart failure and that diagnosis was listed on his
death certificate. He also did not believe occupational
pneumoconiosis was a contributing factor to Mr.
Hatfield's death. Finally, John Henry, M.D., testified
that he agreed with the opinions and conclusions of both Dr.
Willis and Dr. Kinder.
Office of Judges affirmed the claims administrator's
Order denying dependent's benefits on August 19, 2015.
The Office of Judges found that the findings of Dr. Willis
and Dr. Kinder were persuasive. Dr. Willis reviewed the
medical evidence and stated he did not disagree with a
diagnosis of simple pneumoconiosis but did disagree with a
finding of massive pulmonary fibrosis. Dr. Willis noted
bilateral pleural fusions which he attributed to either
congestive heart failure or bilateral pneumonia. Dr. Kinder
also disagreed with a diagnosis of massive fibrosis and
opined it should have been noted in the CT scan one year
prior to Mr. Hatfield's death. Dr. Kinder believed the
discharge diagnoses of renal failure, breathing problems, and
congestive heart failure correlated with the medical
evidence. The Office of Judges reviewed the testimonies of
Dr. Willis and Dr. Kinder and concluded the medical evidence
of record was reliable, probative, and sufficient to support
a finding that occupational pneumoconiosis was not a
contributing factor to Mr. Hatfield's death. The Board of
Review affirmed the Office of Judges' Order on February
agree with the conclusion reached by the Office of Judges as
affirmed by the Board of Review. Mr. Hatfield had a
significant history of congestive heart failure, for which he
was hospitalized multiple times in the year leading up to his
death. Mrs. Hatfield failed to show a causal connection
between his diagnosis of simple occupational pneumoconiosis
and his death.
foregoing reasons, we find that the decision of the Board of
Review is not in clear violation of any constitutional or
statutory provision, nor is it clearly the result of
erroneous conclusions of law, nor is it based upon a material
misstatement or mischaracterization of the ...