Citicorp workers granted benefits

October 10, 1997


Staff Writer

Three of seven current and former Citicorp Credit Services workers who claimed in a recent hearing that they got sick from sewage backups at the Hagerstown plant have been granted workers' compensation benefits, according to their lawyer.

One worker was granted benefits, including payment for lost wages, on a continuing basis, Attorney Bill Proctor said. The second was granted benefits for the period from May to mid-July and the third was awarded benefits for the period from May to mid-August, he said.

Proctor said claims filed by two others were denied by retired Workers' Compensation Commission Commissioner J. Max Millstone following the hearing in Hagerstown last month. Proctor said he is considering appealing those cases to Washington County Circuit Court.


Proctor said he may also ask Millstone to reconsider the case of a sixth worker whose claim was not denied, but who was granted no benefits beyond those already received.

Proctor said Millstone issued the orders without comment and did not explain his decisions.

At the time of the hearing, Millstone said he would decide each case separately, after reviewing medical evidence and testimony.

The workers represented by Proctor, along with a seventh employee who was represented by another lawyer, testified at the three-day hearing that they became sick after sewage backups at the plant last September and this May.

It was not known how Millstone ruled in the seventh case.

The workers asked for "temporary total disability" benefits for time lost from work on grounds they were injured on the job by sewage fumes and fumes from cleaning chemicals and deodorizers used after the backups in Citicorp Building No. 2.

Citicorp and its insurers fought the claims.

Proctor said several other cases he is handling have yet to be heard.

A total of about 40 workers have filed Workers' Compensation claims in connection with the sewage backups, according to the Workers' Compensation Commission.

Citicorp has said that the September 1996 backup was the most serious of the two incidents. In that case chemicals were used to clean up the sewage, which came in under an area of the floor where workers were seated.

Citicorp workers were temporarily moved because of the fumes, Citicorp officials said.

Dr. P. Steven Macedo, a Montgomery County specialist treating some of the Citicorp workers, said they are suffering from classic symptoms of exposure to petrochemicals. He compared their illnesses to Desert Storm syndrome.

Macedo said their symptoms include severe headaches, occupational asthma, attention and memory deficits, joint pains, skin rashes and chemical bronchitis.

Several workers said when the backups occurred they felt burning in their nose, mouth and lungs. Some said they developed skin rashes. Two said they lost their sense of smell.

Macedo said he's told a number of his patients not to return to work.

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