After Death, UConn Chicken Coop Inspector To Get Day In Court




James Rock spent a good portion of his 35 years at the University of Connecticut inside coops.

As an and educator with the Extension, Rock traveled across the state inspecting chicken coops at poultry farms. Some were small shacks with sawdust on the floor, others were large insulated barns with thousands of chickens in them.

Rock, a Cornell graduate, known to many as the “Professor of Chicken Coops,” died of lung cancer in 2010 at age 85. Now, his estate and his family are waging a fight at the state Supreme to get worker’s compensation benefits, arguing that his was due to his job and that they’re eligible even though Rock never filed for benefits before he died.

Rock’s family believes he inhaled airborne asbestos because many older coops were insulated with inexpensive plaster boards that likely contained the substance, court records show. When the chicken pecked on the plaster board asbestos would escape into the air, they argue.

His family believes the years of inspecting chicken coops from Putnam to Canaan led to him contracting mesothelioma, a lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, court records show.

“Back in the old days he’d visit two or three farms a day. You’d be inhaling lots of dust, poultry feather dander, manure dander all without wearing a mask or protective gear,” said Mike Darre, a co-worker of Rock’s at UConn.

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