The Nevada Court of Appeals heard arguments Tuesday in a workers’ compensation claim made by a Henderson police officer who said he suffered hearing loss on the job.
Jared Spangler worked as a Henderson police officer for more than a decade and claims he suffered hearing loss from sirens, gunshots and his radio earpiece. He wore hearing aids to court on Tuesday.
His attorney, Lisa Anderson, said during Tuesday’s arguments that Spangler filed a workers’ compensation claim in 2006 that was denied after doctors said his hearing loss was not caused or aggravated by his work.
Spangler filed a second claim 10 years later after his hearing loss worsened, Anderson said, at which time an audiologist said repeated exposure to loud noises at work had caused the damage to his ears.
“This is not your typical repetitive injury, but it is something that he is occasionally incurring as he’s doing his job,” Anderson said. “It’s a big thing. It’s not just something that creeps up on him.”
His claim was denied again, but Spangler chose to appeal the decision. Clark County District Judge Richard Scotti determined that Spangler’s hearing loss was caused by “a series of discrete accidents” that compounded over time.
After a petition from the city of Henderson, the case ended up with the Court of Appeals.
Attorney Daniel Schwartz, representing the city of Henderson, said Spangler did not produce sufficient evidence to show that the hearing loss was caused by a series of accidents because the law would require him to submit a workers’ compensation claim for each one.
“Hearing loss tests over the years showing that his hearing loss did, in fact, get progressively worse — that’s in the record,” Schwartz said. “But there’s nothing in the record that indicates that these discrete events happened as Judge Scotti indicated.”
Schwartz also argued that each individual incident did not fall under the legal definition of a work accident because he did not immediately seek medical treatment every time he heard a loud noise at work. But Anderson said Spangler’s hearing loss falls under the definition of an “occupational disease” under Nevada law.
“So, if medical treatment is not sought for these various incidents, then they are just consequences of the employment,” she said. “They are part of that daily impact that is happening to the officer as he’s working.”
While state law includes language allowing police officers and firefighters to submit claims for illnesses like lung disease and post-traumatic stress disorder as a “compensable occupational disease” without extensive documentation, hearing loss is not specifically covered.
The case was argued Tuesday in front of law students and faculty in the Thomas & Mack Moot Courtroom at UNLV’s Boyd Law School.
The court also heard an appeal in the case of Brandon Hanson, who was convicted of first-degree murder in 2018 for stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death. Hanson’s defense appealed to have the first-degree charge reduced to second-degree murder.
Nevada Court of Appeals Judges Michael Gibbons, Bonnie Bulla and Jerry Tao will announce their decision on both cases in the coming weeks.