New York: Mechanic’s Fatal Heart Attack Sustained on Employer’s Premises, But After Work Shift, Held Not Compensable

A New York appellate court recently affirmed a decision by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board that ruled the death of an employee was not causally related to his employment as a truck driver and heavy equipment mechanic where it appeared that the employee had finished his normal work shift, was working on his personal vehicle in the employer’s garage, and was found unresponsive on the floor by a manager [see In the Matter of the Claim of Bailey v. Binghampton Precast & Supply Corp., 2013 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 1127 (Feb. 21, 2013).  

Evidence suggested that the decedent worked his normal shift (7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) and thereafter remained on the employer’s premises to perform certain repairs to his personal vehicle. At some point between 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. that evening, the employer’s plant manager arrived and observed decedent working on his vehicle in the employer’s garage. Shortly thereafter, the plant manager found decedent unresponsive on the floor of the garage, started CPR and called 911. Decedent was pronounced dead later that evening.

Decedent’s widow testified that decedent telephoned her on the night in question and indicated that he was staying late “to clean the pit.” The appellate court observed, however, that there was nothing in the employer’s records to suggest that decedent either worked a double shift on the day of his death, incurred any overtime on that date or actually was performing work for the employer at the time of his death. Accordingly, the appellate court had “no quarrel” with the Board’s finding that decedent could not be considered to have been in the course of his employment at the time of his demise.

The court acknowledged that Decedent’s primary care physician indeed testified that it was “extremely likely” that the “heavy work” that decedent performed on the day of his death contributed to his passing, and both a cardiologist and a physician who conducted an independent review of decedent’s medical records reached a similar conclusion. The court indicated, however, that a review of the record revealed that the opinions were based upon erroneous assumptions and facts not borne out by the documentary evidence or hearing testimony – namely, that decedent worked a double shift and was engaged in strenuous physical activity on the day of his death. There was nothing in the record to support those alleged facts.

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