A husband in New Jersey filed an intriguing workers compensation claim after his wife suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism he claimed was a result of her sedentary job.

After allegedly working at a desk in her home office for 10 hours one evening she passed away from a blood clot in her lung. Her husband claimed her death was work-related, however, the New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed and denied the workers compensation claim.

Our Rogers workers compensation lawyer will explain how the court came to this conclusion.

Workers Compensation Claim for Cathleen Renner’s Death

According to the claim, Cathleen Renner was a manager at AT&T who worked at a computer from her home office. Her job duties entailed reading, taking telephone calls, sending and receiving emails, conducting conferences with her supervisors and co-workers, and making decisions.

On the night she passed away, she had been sitting at her desk working for more than 10 hours. Her workers compensation claim alleged that the pulmonary embolism she suffered was caused by working a sedentary overnight shift that evening.

The case went to court and, initially, the court ruled that her husband was entitled to workers compensation benefits for her death. AT&T appealed the decision to the state civil appeals court which upheld the lower court’s decision. However, when the case was further appealed to the state Supreme Court, the decision was overturned.

New Jersey Supreme Court denies the workers’ compensation claim

Experts that reviewed this case reported this was the first of its kind. Despite the lower court rulings in support of the workers compensation claim, the New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed and ruled unanimously that there was insufficient evidence that Renner’s job duties were the cause of her death. Instead, the court found that her job duties did not actually require her to remain seated for long, uninterrupted periods of time, which is what caused the pulmonary embolism. Although Renner worked from home a few times a week, on the night before she passed away she had been under the pressure of a deadline. As a result, she had worked through the night.

The cause of the pulmonary embolism

The morning after Renner’s overnight work, she called 911 because she couldn’t breathe. According to the physician who testified on behalf of Renner in the case, she developed a blood clot while she had been working in a sedentary manner. He also testified that Renner had otherwise been a very active woman. On the other hand, the physician who testified for AT&T stated that there were several other factors that led to the fatal condition. Renner used birth control pills, had an enlarged heart and weighed more than 300 pounds, all factors that contribute to blood clots of this nature. Ultimately, the court found that the evidence was inconclusive as to whether Renner’s job-related duties actually led to her death.

Rogers workers compensation lawyer explains about injuries that are not work-related

The assumption cannot be made that claimed injuries are work-related. That means an employer can always argue that the employee’s claimed injury either occurred outside of the workplace or was not related to the employee’s job duties. If an employer can provide sufficient evidence to show either is the case, then the employee may not be entitled to workers compensation benefits. This can also include injuries that occur while the employee is not actually performing job-related duties. If you have questions about whether or not your injuries are job-related, discuss your situation with our Rogers workers compensation lawyer.

Understanding the workers’ compensation appeals process

The Worker’s Compensation insurance system is based on administrative law, which means an administrative agency, as opposed to a court of law, will oversee the entire system, including any claim contest or appeal. Administrative law judges are responsible for conducting hearings which are very similar to civil trials. If your claim is contested by the Worker’s Comp carrier, then your next step is to seek an appeal.  You should get a Rogers workers compensation lawyer to assist you.

Asking for reconsideration of the decision

The stages in the Worker’s Compensation Appeals process may vary depending on the state where you are employed, but here are the basic steps that everyone must take in order to appeal a decision denying Worker’s Comp benefits. The first step is to determine why your claim was contested or denied. If you are lucky, the matter may be resolved quickly. If you failed to submit a required document or some necessary evidence, you may be able to remedy the problem by simply supplying the required information. Once you do that, the Worker’s Comp carrier can reconsider your claim. Let our Rogers workers compensation lawyer help you through your appeal.

If you have questions regarding workers compensation claims or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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