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Chatham v. Public Service Electric and Gas Co.

Decided: September 9, 1948.

ELIZABETH R. CHATHAM, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
PUBLIC SERVICE ELECTRIC AND GAS COMPANY, RESPONDENT-PROSECUTOR



On certiorari.

For the petitioner-respondent, Gilhooly & Yauch (Edward J. Gilhooly, of counsel).

For the respondent-prosecutor, Carl T. Freggens (Henry J. Sorenson, of counsel).

Before Case, Chief Justice, and Justices Burling and Jacobs.

Jacobs

The opinion of the court was delivered by

JACOBS, J. This matter is before the court on writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the Essex County Court of Common Pleas affirming an award rendered by the Workmen's Compensation Bureau in favor of the petitioner-respondent.

Petitioner duly filed her claim for compensation for her husband's death which she alleged was the result of an accident

arising out of and in the course of his employment by respondent-prosecutor. Her husband, the decedent Clyde L. Chatham, had been employed by the respondent, Public Service Electric and Gas Company, as assistant division superintendent, in its Paterson office. His duties included attendance at labor-management meetings which were held in the company's conference room on the twelfth floor of the Public Service Building, Park Place, Newark.

On the morning of June 7th, 1945, the decedent telephoned his assistant Mr. Thimme that he would take care of the labor-management meeting which was scheduled for 10:00 A.M. at the conference room in Newark. After discussing vacation plans with his wife, he left his home in Nutley about 9:20 A.M., proceeded to Newark and parked his car in the Public Service garage on the east side of Pine Street, Newark, where he bid a cheerful good morning to Mr. Finn, chauffeur for the company's president. Within five minutes thereafter, his body plunged from the Public Service Building to the ground on the west side of Pine Street. One witness saw the shadow of his body as it passed the seventh floor of the building and another saw his body, which had been preceded by his brief case, after it struck the ground.

Shortly thereafter, detectives of the Newark police department arrived to ascertain the cause of the decedent's death. Their investigation indicated that his body had come from an open window in the twelfth floor conference room, which was thereupon thoroughly inspected. All of the windows were closed except the open center window. The venetian blind on the center window had been raised two or two and one-half feet from the sill. There were no fingerprints or footprints on the sill or outer ledge. However, there was dust on the sill except about the width of a man, "as though the clothes had brushed away whatever little dust or stuff had fallen on that window sill since it was cleaned." Describing these brush marks, Detective Donald said: "This was a slide, to take the dust off and clean it." Detective Bontempo who tested the window found that it worked stiffly at the start but easily "after getting a good start on it." All of the windows and the door of the conference room had been closed the

previous night and the door had been opened by a company employee at an ...


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