Nevada Supreme Court Addresses Notice of Injury in Workers Compensation Action


In Nevada, the Nevada Industrial Insurance Act (NIIA) provides for compensation for injuries arising out of and within the course of employment . The NIIA requires injured employees to provide certain notices of their injury. Under NRS 617.342(1), an employee must "provide written notice of an occupational disease . . . within 7 days after the employee . . . has knowledge of the disability and its relationship to the employee's employment." Additionally, under NRS 617.344(1), an employee must file his or her claim for compensation "within 90 days after the employee has knowledge of the disability and its relationship to his or her employment."

In City of Las Vegas v. Lawson, 126 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 52 (December 30, 2010), the Nevada Supreme Court addressed the applicability of those notice requirements to breast cancer. There, the employee, Robin Lawson, was employed as a firefighter for the City of Las Vegas. In 1997, Lawson was diagnosed with breast cancer. She missed nine months of work for treatment. In 2004, Lawson's cancer returned. After undergoing a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, Lawson asked her physician if he thought that her cancers were caused by her occupation. He informed her that he did in fact believe that the cancer was due to her firefighting job, and he advised her to stop working. That day, Lawson filled out a "notice of injury or occupational disease." Six weeks later, Lawson filed a claim for workers compensation, which was denied.

The City of Las Vegas denied Lawson's claim, in part because Lawson was first diagnosed with cancer in 1997, so the City concluded notice that she provided and the workers' compensation claim that she submitted in 2005 were untimely pursuant to NRS 617.342 and NRS 617.344.

The Nevada Supreme Court disagreed. The Court noted that while some evidence implied that Lawson knew that her cancer was related to her job prior to 2005, substantial evidence supported that Lawson was not aware of the connection until her physician informed her of his opinion in 2005.