Former Philadelphia firefighter loses Workers' Comp claim after cancer diagnosis

By Takesha Thomas | Sep 17, 2018

PHILADELPHIA - A veteran Philadelphia firefighter has lost an appeal with the Commonwealth Court in a Workers' Compensation claim that alleges his prostate cancer was a direct result of his occupation. 

The court upheld on Aug. 20 a Workers' Comp board decision that attorneys for Gerald Cantz failed to prove that his prostate cancer was a direct result of his 30 years working as a city firefighter. Judge P. Kevin Brobson wrote the decision.

Cantz worked from 1977 to 2007 as a firefighter before retiring, according to court documents. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2009, according to court documents.

In April 2012, Cantz filed a claim alleging a compensable occupational disease in the form of prostate cancer. According to the claim, Cantz "sustained prostate cancer due to exposure to Group 1 carcinogens over the course of his career as a firefighter."

Judge P. Kevin Brobson  

The court ruled that Cantz failed to "show that his type of cancer is... caused by exposure to a known carcinogen which is recognized as a Group 1 carcinogen." 

In support of his petition, Cantz provided medical reports and deposition testimony of various medical experts. Cantz said he was, "routinely exposed to diesel exhaust, smoke, soot, and hazardous materials throughout his career." 

Although he said that he "sometimes wore his self-contained breathing apparatus when fighting fires," and experienced "direct exposure to smoke when he took off his apparatus during the end stages of the fire response."

Attorneys for the City of Philadelphia, however, argued using expert testimony that said, "as a matter of general causation, there is insufficient evidence from which to conclude that prostate cancer is caused by exposure to Group 1 carcinogens related to firefighting." 

Attorneys for the city also argued that,"prostate cancer is not commonly attributable to occupational exposures, as the primary risk factors for prostate cancer are age, followed by family history."

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