Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Eva Justine Woomer w/o Robert Thomas v. General Electric Co., No. A-81862.
P. Ronald Cooper, Reding, Rea & Cooper, P.C., for petitioners.
Alexander J. Pentecost, with him Amiel B. Caramanna, Jr., for respondents.
Judges Williams, Jr., Craig and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Craig.
General Electric Company and Electric Mutual Liability Insurance Company appeal from a Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board order granting benefits to Eva Justine Woomer under her fatal claim petition.
As a matter of law, is a referee precluded from finding that an injury "arose in the course of employment and was related thereto,"*fn1 where a claimant's heart attack occurred thirty-three hours after he left his employer's premises? If not, the remaining question is whether substantial evidence of record supports the awarding of benefits here.
Thomas Woomer, a machinist for General Electric, died on May 23, 1976, at age 55. Although he had regularly worked a 4:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. shift five days a week, Mr. Woomer worked twelve consecutive eight-hour days before his death. On Sunday, May 23, 1976, approximately thirty-three hours after he left his employer's premises, Mr. Woomer suffered a fatal heart attack in his home. For sometime before his death, a family physician, Dr. Harry Heck, had been treating Mr. Woomer for obesity, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension.
At the hearing, Mrs. Woomer testified that, during her husband's twelve days of consecutive work, he was tired, nervous and unable to sleep. Based upon her testimony, Mr. Woomer's death certificate, hospital records, and Dr. Heck's testimony, Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist, testified as follows:
In my opinion, the work schedule, specifically the twelve days of consecutive working on the job with the associated nervous tension, insomnia,
and apparent emotional distress as observed and commented upon by his wife, were directly related to his death on May 23 as a result of hypertensive heart disease and coronary artery thrombosis.
A person who has a compromised heart by virtue of long-standing high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis is much more susceptible to a heart attack and sudden death when under prolonged emotional and physiological stress and strain or acute emotional and physiological stress than would a person who does not have hypertensive heart disease and any problems involving the coronary arteries. Stress and strain are to be avoided to the fullest extent possible within the reasonable and necessary context of a person's life if it is known that that person has high blood pressure, ...