New York: No Death Benefits Awarded Where Work-Related Heart Attack Occurred 24 Years Earlier

A New York appellate court recently affirmed a finding by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board that ruled that the death of claimant’s husband was not causally related to his employment and denied claimant’s claim for workers’ compensation death benefits where the decedent sustained two work-related heart attacks in 1982 and 1986 that rendered him permanently totally disabled and he died in October 2010, at the age of 77, twenty-four years after he suffered the second work-related heart attack [Boaro v. Kings Park Psychiatric Ctr., 2013 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 1856 (Mar. 21, 2013)].

Initially observing that the resolution of conflicting medical opinions, particularly as they related to causation, was within the province of the Board, the appellate court noted that the carrier had introduced the report and testimony of a board-certified cardiologist who performed a record review and opined that there was no correlation between decedent’s two heart attacks and his death. The physician explained that decedent’s death was caused by atherosclerosis, a slowly progressing disease based on underlying genetic factors, that was exacerbated by decedent’s smoking and hypertension. While there was some medical evidence in the record that supported a contrary conclusion, the court indicated that the Board’s decision was supported by substantial evidence.

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