For the prosecutor, Collins & Corbin (Edward A. Markley and Charles W. Broadhurst, of counsel).
For the respondent, David Roskein (John A. Laird, of counsel).
Before Justices Trenchard, Heher and Perskie.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
PERSKIE, J. This is a workman's compensation case. The question involved is the usual one: Was there a compensable accident within the intendment of the act? The bureau held that there was not. The Essex County Court of Common Pleas (Walter D. VanRiper, Judge) held that there was and reversed the findings of the bureau. Query: Which is right?
The proofs disclosed that the deceased, Water Brooks, was employed by respondent for about six months prior to his death. For the first five months he worked as a porter; the last month he worked as a helper in his employer's warehouse, moving, lifting and delivering furniture.
On August 14th, 1930, a hot day, decedent and another employe (driver of truck) set out to deliver a three-piece set of furniture, consisting of two arm chairs and a settee. The former weighed between ninety-five and one hundred and twenty-five pounds and the latter between two hundred and twenty-five and two hundred and fifty pounds. Upon reaching their destination each carried up a chair to the purchaser's apartment -- which was on the fourth floor of the apartment house building -- and immediately thereafter they both carried up the settee. It was a difficult task. It
appears that decedent was breathing heavy, i.e., "breathing pretty strong," and was apparently under a strain; "he was winded." When they reached the top floor he gave "what sounded like a deep sigh." They then proceeded to place the settee in the room as directed by the purchaser. Just as the settee was finally placed decedent slumped as though he intended to sit on the window sill. He was eased in his fall, as he slid down to the floor. He did not strike his head or body as he fell because of the aid he received. He was carried out on the porch. A doctor was called, but the employe died without saying a word, before the doctor arrived.
The following day an autopsy was performed. It failed to disclose that the death was in anywise caused as a result of an accident or trauma. As a result of the autopsy it was determined, however, that the cause of death was chronic aortitis (a heart condition of long standing) brought on by syphilis. In other words it was a case of chronic syphilitic aortitis.
The proof for petitioner, who incidentally was decedent's common law wife (they were separated at the time of his death) and mother of his child, disclosed that decedent's heart condition was such that he could, without any exertion, suddenly drop dead; that such death could occur while he was in bed, sitting in a chair or walking, or doing nothing at all. But petitioner's physician also testified that there was a direct relationship between the work that deceased was doing, the exertion thereof, and his death. The theory thereof being that even with the diseased condition of the heart and coronary arteries which were furnishing a diminished supply of nourishment thereto, there was, from the supply they did give, a certain reserve power which had to be used up before the heart stopped beating. It was the thought of his doctor that if decedent had not been doing ...