If you devoured eight plates of Kung Pao Beef at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, would you later blame intestinal distress on a fortune cookie consumed at the end of your marathon meal?


If you spent 15 years in college without acquiring a degree, would you insist that your inability to secure and maintain gainful employment is due to discrimination against people with freckles?


If you smoked up to two packs of cigarettes a day for 36 years, would you attribute a diagnosis of lung cancer to asbestos exposure as an education employee?


William Boyce would and did.


Granted, the fractional amounts of flour, sugar, salt, egg white, and vanilla extract in a single fortune cookie may have no salutary effect on a person who has gorged himself. Still, the cookie is not the culprit.


Freckles, too, may be off-putting to an unspotted potential employer with narrow views on complexion. Nevertheless, they are not dispositive in personnel matters.


Exposure to asbestos is never a good thing, except in the form of flame retardants preventing self-immolation. Even so, minimal asbestos exposure does not trump maximum tobacco consumption as a cause of action – a fact recently affirmed by our state’s highest court.


Early this month, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a July 2012 decision of the state Workers’ Compensation Board of Review that found William Boyce’s lung cancer more likely to have resulted from three and a half decades of smoking than from an alleged sometime exposure to asbestos as a Wood County Board of Education employee.


In 2008, a claims administrator denied Boyce permanent partial disability benefits based on the Occupational Pneumoconiosis Board’s determination that he had no pulmonary functional impairment.


In 2010, a medical expert reviewing samples of Boyce’s lung tissue found no evidence of asbestosis.


Boyce’s experts disagreed, of course, but his two-pack-a-day habit is undisputed.

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