Operator's walking uphill at work connected to cardiac arrest
Case name: Cross v. R. & R. Lumber Co., Inc., No. E2012-00492-WC-R3-WC (Tenn. 12/26/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that a widow was entitled to benefits for an operator's death by sudden cardiac arrest.
What it means:
In Tennessee, an employer is liable for a preexisting condition aggravated by a work-related injury.
A heavy equipment operator for a lumber company met with the owner of the company to travel to the job site. The two men climbed into a skidder, a tractor-like vehicle used to transport cut trees, and the owner drove 10 minutes into the tree-cutting area. The men exited the skidder. The owner carried a chainsaw and cable 20 feet up a hill, and the operator carried two other pieces of equipment weighing three pounds each. The operator watched as the owner began to cut a tree with the chainsaw. The operator struck a vine, and the chain came off his saw. He turned and saw the operator lying on the ground. By the time emergency medical technicians arrived, he died of sudden cardiac arrest. The operator had a history of heart and coronary artery disease. His widow sought workers' compensation benefits. The Tennessee Supreme Court held that the widow was entitled to benefits.
A cardiologist who was the operator's treating physician said that the operator's preexisting condition placed him at a greater risk for sudden cardiac arrest and his work activities "triggered the heart attack." Another cardiologist differed as to whether the operator's limited exertion in the hour before his death was sufficient to induce sudden cardiac death. The court found that the treating physician was in a better position to make an assessment as to causation than the other cardiologist, who relied exclusively on medical records.
The court said that although the testimony did not indicate a high level of physical exertion immediately prior to the operator's death, the court found a causal connection between his physical activities and his death, given the weakened condition of his heart.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 1, 2013
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