04/02/2013 05:14 EDT | Updated 06/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Judge rejects rulings that nurses' occupations caused their breast cancers

VANCOUVER - A B.C. Supreme Court judge has rejected decisions by a workers compensation tribunal that found three B.C. medical workers got breast cancer as a result of their jobs.

The cases involve Katrina Hammer, Patricia Schmidt and Anne MacFarlane, who worked in a lab at Mission Memorial Hospital.

The Workers’ Compensation Board originally denied their applications for compensation benefits on the grounds their breast cancers were not occupational diseases.

But rulings by the Workers Compensation Administrative Tribunal in 2010 and 2011 overturned those decisions, and found the women's breast cancers were occupational diseases.

Justice John Savage has now ruled the tribunal's decisions were "patently unreasonable" because there was no evidence that the women's cancer was caused by their work environment, and the tribunal ignored expert advice to the contrary.

The workers' employer, the Fraser Health Authority, wanted the court to dismiss the cases outright, but Savage has ruled the cases should be referred back to the tribunal because new evidence come forward that could result in different decisions.