Big Branch Res., Inc. v. Ogle, No. 13-3251 (6th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Ogle, born in 1954, worked in underground coal mines for 21 years, most recently in 1996 in Kentucky. Ogle smoked since age 12. He sought black lung benefits in 2007. After the record closed but before the ALJ issued a decision, Congress revived a rebuttable statutory presumption that a coal miner who worked in an underground mine for at least 15 years and suffers from a total respiratory or pulmonary disability is presumed to be totally disabled due to pneumoconiosis, 30 U.S.C. 921(c)(4). The ALJ awarded benefits, finding that Ogle suffered from totally disabling respiratory impairment, a conclusion with which all medical opinions agreed. The ALJ stated that the presumption shifts the burden to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that either the miner’s disability does not, or did not, arise out of coal mine employment or the miner did not, suffer from pneumoconiosis. The Fund demonstrated that Ogle did not suffer from clinical pneumoconiosis, but failed to rebut the presumption that Ogle suffers from legal pneumoconiosis. The Board affirmed. The Sixth Circuit denied a petition for review, finding no evidence that the ALJ improperly restricted the Fund’s ability to rebut the 15-year presumption or that the ALJ applied the wrong standard.