Cardiovascular or cerebral vascular accidents can be compensable under the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation statute. The courts have held that the mere fact that a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular accident occurs at work does not make it work related. A worker or his dependents must show that the injury or death was produced by the work effort or strain in excess of the wear and tear of the claimant’s daily living. A recent Appellate Division decision confirms this standard, see James P. Renner v. AT & T (A-71-11) Decided July 30, 2014.
This case involved an employee of AT & T who telecommutes from her home several days each week. The day before her death, she was working on project with a looming deadline. As such she had stayed up late working into the night and was working early the next morning too. She reported not feeling well to a co-worker around 9 am, but agreed to keep working on the project. Within a few hours, she had called an ambulance. She complained of choking and difficulty breathing. She did not survive. The experts agreed that the cause of death was a pulmonary embolism; however, they disagreed as to the cause.
Her husband filed a claim seeking dependency benefits under the workers’ compensation statute. The doctor for Mr. Renner testified that his wife’s work effort contributed, in a material degree, to the development of deep vein thrombosis that precipitated the pulmonary embolism and her demise. He stated that her work required her to sit at her desk and that the day before her death was the precipitating factor. The doctor for AT & T state that she had multiple risk factors (including morbid obesity, enlarged heart and birth control pill use) for the embolism’s formation and it would be impossible to state that her cause of death was related to her work effort. The Court held performing a job that requires sitting for long periods of time in one position, does not necessarily rise to the level required by law. She was not confined in a cramped space and was able to change positions and move about while working. She could take breaks, stand, and stretch or briefly exercise. Therefore, Mrs. Renner’s death was not caused by her work effort or strain involving a substantial condition or event.
There are circumstances where the work effort is substantial and can be a significant contributing factor to injury or death. However, identifying situations that meet the strict standards in New Jersey, takes an experienced attorney. If you think you or a loved one may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in New Jersey, please call Stark & Stark, PC to speak to one of our attorneys today.