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Widow is awarded money for husband’s demise

The Workmen’s Compensation Board has made an award to the Nassau widow of an employee who suffered a fatal coronary attack, which the Board found was causally related to injuries he sustained in an auto accident during the course of his employment.

According to records in court, the worker was operating his employer’s truck when it was struck by a United States mail truck. The impact caused him to be thrown to the pavement and he was unconscious for several minutes. He was taken to a hospital. The worker continued to do his regular work until his death several days later. According to a Suffolk doctor who was called at the worker’s residence, the worker was acutely ill and was suffering from severe chest pains. After the doctor administered morphine to the worker, he was rushed to the hospital where he died few hours after. The death certificate shows the cause of death to be coronary occlusion and coronary thrombosis.

At the hearing, two doctors presented conflicting testimony regarding the cause of the worker’s death. One doctor, testifying for the employer, said the worker’s heart and other contents of his chest cavity were shaken up by the truck accident but that the condition of the heart, arteries and thrombus was formed more than two weeks before the fatal attack. The doctor who testified for the widow said the force of the blow sustained by the worker when he was thrown from his truck may have produced heart injury.

The court found it impossible to reject as insufficient in law the testimony of the doctor presented by the widow because, according to the court, it was not empty speculation, nor was it a mere general medical lecture. The court pointed out that the hypothetical question posed to the doctor contained all of the salient facts of the case, and his opinion was directed to those facts. The record emphatically establishes that in forming his opinion, he considered both the autopsy and microscopic findings.

There are in this case two conflicting expert opinions each one based upon the same facts. The selection of either is an exercise of fact-finding power which is entirely within the province of the Board and outside the limited jurisdiction of the court. The court said it is not its function to render a decision upon the basis of which expert opinion it deems is more weighty or persuasive. The testimony of each expert was sufficiently direct and specific to create an issue of fact and to warrant a finding either for or against causal relation. That issue has been resolved by the appropriate body the Board in favor of the widow, and the court said the record leaves it no course but to affirm.

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