Blood Clot Deemed Compensable in New Jersey
An appellate court in New Jersey recently affirmed a ruling that the widower of an obese woman was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits after she died at her desk from a blood clot. The woman, Cathleen Renner, weighed over 300 pounds and had other medical complications that led to a restricted blood flow. Despite these non-work related risk factors, the appellate court found that the clot likely formed while Ms. Renner was working because she had to sit all day and deemed her death compensable.
My Two Cents:
In Alabama, where a workers’ compensation injury is non-accidental, meaning that the injury was not caused by a sudden and unexpected external event, a claimant must satisfy a two-part causation test by producing substantial evidence establishing both (a) legal causation and (b) medical causation.
Legal causation is established by showing that the performance of job duties exposed the employee to a danger or risk materially in excess of that to which people not so employed are exposed ordinarily. Medical causation is established by showing that the risk to which the employee was exposed was a contributing cause of the injury. In gradual deterioration cases, such as the case of Cathleen Renner, both legal and medical causation must be established by clear and convincing evidence.
Ms. Renner’s death might also have been deemed compensable in Alabama if she was able to show that her desk job exposed her to much more of a risk for a blood clot than the average person would be exposed to in his or her every day life. She would also have to show that the desk job was a contributing cause of the blood clot, even if it was not the sole or even predominant cause. Although there is not currently a blood clot case on the books in Alabama, courts have related heart attacks and strokes to employment activities in certain situations.