Trego v. US Dept. of Labor, 3:08-CV-326.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Eastern District of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtWilliam J. Monahan, U.S. Department of Justice, Knoxville, TN, for Defendant
Citation681 F. Supp.2d 894
PartiesLarry W. TREGO, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. 3:08-CV-326.,3:08-CV-326.
Decision Date18 December 2009

681 F. Supp.2d 894

Larry W. TREGO, Plaintiff,

No. 3:08-CV-326.

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, at Knoxville.

December 18, 2009.

681 F. Supp.2d 895

John D. Agee, Ridenour & Ridenour, Clinton, TN, for Plaintiff.

William J. Monahan, U.S. Department of Justice, Knoxville, TN, for Defendant.


THOMAS A. VARLAN, District Judge.

This civil action is before the Court on Plaintiff Larry W. Trego's Motion for Judgment Doc. 19. Defendant United States Department of Labor (the "Labor Department") has filed a Brief in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment Doc. 21. The motion is now ripe for this Court's consideration.

I. Factual Background

Mr. Trego was employed by Lockheed Martin Energy Systems ("Lockheed Martin") under a contract with the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee until he was laid off on January 31, 1997 Doc. 12, ¶ 1; Doc. 13, ¶ 1. Mr. Trego was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and was awarded compensation under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (the "Act"), codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 7384 et seq. Doc. 12, ¶ 2; Doc. 13, ¶ 2. Mr. Trego filed a Complaint in this case on August 19, 2008, alleging that his exposure to contaminants while he was employed by Lockheed Martin, which resulted in his contracting COPD, also "resulted in his inability to work in the areas in which he would otherwise be employable" Doc. 1, ¶¶ 2, 3. He filed an Amended Complaint Doc. 12 on April 10, 2009. The Labor Department filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint Doc. 13 on April 24, 2009.

II. Procedural Background

Mr. Trego alleges that he began to experience chronic bronchitis some time before he was laid off by Lockheed Martin Doc. 20; AR, 73.1 He further alleges that he was diagnosed with COPD in 2004 by Dr. Gregory LeMense Doc. 20. Mr. Trego filed a claim for benefits under the Act on December 8, 2004 AR, 603-08. Mr. Trego filed an additional request for wage-loss benefits under Part E of the Act on August 28, 2006 Id., 391. The Labor Department's Final Adjudication Board (the "FAB") issued a Notice of Final Decision with respect to Mr. Trego's claim for benefits on October 6, 2006, in which it determined that Mr. Trego had contracted COPD as a result of his exposure to toxic substances at a Department of Energy

681 F. Supp.2d 896
facility, and awarded him medical benefits for that illness under Part E of the Act Id., 359-61. The FAB denied Mr. Trego's request for wage-loss benefits in its Notice of Final Decision issued on February 12, 2009 Id., 1-10

Mr. Trego filed his motion for judgment Doc. 19 and accompanying Brief in Support of Motion for Judgment Doc. 20 on June 29, 2009. In his brief, Mr. Trego argues that the Labor Department's denial of his request for wage-loss benefits on February 12, 2009 was arbitrary and capricious in that it:

(1) Fails to properly weigh the evidence;
(2) Overlooks substantial evidence in support of Mr. Trego's case; and
(3) Arbitrarily requires Mr. Trego to negate a presumption of non-eligibility for benefits, rather than impartially weighing the evidence to determine whether it is more likely than not that Mr. Trego suffered a loss of wages as a result of his COPD.

Doc. 19. The Labor Department filed a response in opposition to this motion, arguing that the Labor Department's denial of Mr. Trego's wage-loss claim was not arbitrary and capricious, and was instead a reasoned conclusion based on relevant factors, which was firmly supported by the evidence as a whole, and which articulated a rational connection between the facts found and the decision made Doc. 21.

The Court has carefully considered Mr. Trego's motion, his brief in support of that motion, the brief in opposition to that motion, and the underlying record. For the reasons that follow, Mr. Trego's motion will be denied.

III. Standard of Review

42 U.S.C. § 7385s-6(a) provides that "a person adversely affected or aggrieved by a final decision ... under ... Part E may review that order in the United States district court in the district in which the injury was sustained ...." § 7385s-6(a) further provides that the district court "shall have jurisdiction over the proceeding and shall have the power to affirm, modify, or set aside, in whole or in part, such decision." The district court "may modify or set aside such decision," however, "only if the court determines that such decision was arbitrary and capricious." Id.

The arbitrary and capricious standard "is the least demanding review of an administrative action." Coal. for Gov't Procurement v. Fed. Prison Indus., 365 F.3d 435, 475 (6th Cir.2004). "It requires the party challenging the agency's action to `show that the action had no rational basis or that it involved a clear and prejudicial violation of applicable statutes or regulations.'" Id. at 475 (quoting McDonald Welding v. Webb, 829 F.2d 593, 595 (6th Cir.1987)). "If there is any evidence to support the agency's decision, the agency's determination is not arbitrary or capricious." Coal. for Gov't Procurement, 365 F.3d at 475-76.

IV. Analysis

42 U.S.C. § 7385s-1 provides that a "covered DOE contractor employee shall receive contractor employee compensation under Part E in accordance with" 42 U.S.C. § 7385s-2. § 7385s-2(a)(2) provides the schedule by which the Labor Department makes the wage-loss calculation for "covered employees" under § 7385s-1. In its decision on October 6, 2006, the FAB determined that Mr. Trego was a "covered...

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    ...Colo. Sept. 26, 2014) (unpublished). The burden of establishing this "rests squarely with the claimant." Trego v. U.S. Dep't. of Labor, 681 F.Supp.2d 894, 898 (E.D. 2009). Thus, the petitioner "is required to show the period of wage-loss at issue is causally related to the covered illness b......

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