In Fiore vs. Consolidated Freightways, 140 N.J.452 (1995), Section 31 of the Workers’ Compensation Act is discussed in detail.  Mr. Fiore’s job was to pick up and deliver freight.  Mr. Fiore claimed that drivers would often leave their trucks running while loading and unloading.  He described a work environment that contained a lot of dust and fumes.  Mr. Fiore was overweight, smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, and his father had died of a heart attack at age 69.  On August 8, 1986, after Mr. Fiore had been working for two or three hours, he experienced an angina heart attack.  The medical testimony was vague about the extent of carbon monoxide exposure because there was no carbon monoxide level testing done at the plant.  Furthermore, Mr. Fiore’s own expert concluded that his cigarette smoking would have exposed him to carbon monoxide outside the workplace.

The initial question for the Supreme Court was whether the claim should be analyzed under the Statute dealing with traumatic heart claims, or the provision dealing with “occupational” heart claims.  The court decided that the “occupational disease” section of the statute,  Section 31, was the better approach, but it blended parts of the traumatic heart attack statute into a new three-part to determine compensability.  To prove an occupational heart attack after the Fiore case, a worker must prove the following three things: (1) The disease is due in a material degree to causes arising out of the work place that are characteristic or peculiar to a particular trade, occupation or place of employment; (2) That the employment exposure which caused the disease exceeds the exposure caused by petitioner’s personal risk factors; and (3) The employment exposure must significantly contribute to the development of the heart disease, and that the disease would not have developed to the extent it did without the work exposure.
Please call the Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Stark and Stark if you have any workers’ compensation questions.