McLaurin v. City of Pontiac, Michigan

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

McLaurin v. City of Pontiac, Michigan

A Michigan appeals court upheld an award of workers' compensation disability benefits to a former Pontiac, Michigan police officer who was allegedly exposed in his workplace to secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke or ETS, as well as other purported respiratory irritants, and eventually required a double-lung transplant. Claimant Cornelius McLaurin, who was diagnosed with sarcoidosis many years prior to the lung transplant, worked for the Pontiac Police Department from 1975 until 1991. Sarcoidosis is a progressive condition that in McLaurin's case rapidly advanced to a life-threatening stage requiring the first ever double-lung transplant to be performed in Michigan. A workers' compensation appeals panel ruled in 1995 that workplace ETS exposure, coupled with paint fumes, automobile exhaust and smoke at a pistol shooting range, aggravated McLaurin's preexisting condition and that the cost of his surgery was thus covered by the workers' compensation system. Testimony established that McLaurin's supervisor for many years was a heavy smoker and that ETS "was generally prevalent due to extensive smoking throughout the department."

The city did not dispute that McLaurin was also exposed to other unspecified fumes in the workplace. The commission concluded that "it is not necessary for the Plaintiff to establish that any work exposure aggravated, accelerated or contributed to his condition in a significant manner. He must only show that workplace exposures contributed to his condition. The medical evidence clearly shows that the exposures at work aggravated his symptoms."

Michigan law requires workers to show only that their conditions were worsened "to any extent" by secondhand smoke or other exposures, a less rigorous standard than the "significant contribution" showing required in many jurisdictions.[1][2]


  1. McLaurin V. City of Pontiac, No. 202221 (Michigan Court of Appeals) Decided 980310 Report. March 10, 1998. Philip Morris Bates No. 2072613933/3941
  2. Shook, Hardy and Bacon N403 Supplement Report on Recent ETS and IAQ Developments Report. January 26, 1996. 3 pp. Bates No. 2046344520/4522

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