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Irons v. New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies

Decided: May 11, 1949.

OLIVE S. IRONS, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF INSTITUTIONS AND AGENCIES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



McGeehan, Donges and Colie. The opinion of the court was delivered by Donges, J.A.D.

Donges

This appeal brings up a judgment of the Monmouth County Court, in a workmen's compensation case, which judgment affirmed an award of compensation by the Bureau to the plaintiff.

Respondent is the widow of Frank L. Irons, who died on April 4, 1946, while admittedly in the employ of appellant as a painter. Respondent filed a petition for compensation, alleging that her husband's death was due to an injury arising out of and in the course of his said employment. Appellant denied that the death was causally related to his employment.

It is claimed by respondent that, on April 4, 1946, the decedent while working as a painter at the Brisbane Estate in Allaire, New Jersey, suffered a heart attack and died immediately. Decedent's son testified that he was the foreman painter on the job and that his father was under his supervision; that on the day in question, decedent drove his automobile from their home to the place of employment, and that the son was a passenger therein; that decedent started work about eight o'clock; that by direction of the son there were two closets to be painted by decedent; that decedent finished painting one closet about nine o'clock and started on the

second closet, and while painting it the fatal heart attack occurred at about 9:20 in the morning. The son testified that each closet was about six feet high and about two and one-half feet deep, and about three feet wide. He further testified that the painting of the top of the closet was "an unusually hard job in the position he had to do it. We had no ladder and he had to work off a saw-horse. It was very straining work." He testified further that the saw-horse "was about 2 1/2 feet high, about 3 feet wide and the width of the standing part -- that is, the part upon which he stood, was about 4 inches." He further testified that he saw his father from time to time, from the adjoining room, when he was working, and about 9:20 heard a thud and ran in the room to find his father "alongside the saw-horse and I ran in and grabbed hold of him and pulled him over near the window. He was all white and gasping for breath." He said it was straining work that decedent was doing. In answer to the question: "Why was it straining work on April 4th?" he said "Any person who has to work off a saw-horse knows it. He is too high to do the work underneath without bending in an awkward, strained position and if he doesn't use the saw-horse is too low for the upper work and so would have to be continually getting on and off the saw-horse. You have to see where you are painting and if you can't see it you can't paint it and that's why it is such a strain doing this kind of work." The witness testified that he had looked at his father ten minutes before he heard the thud. He afterward changed his testimony to about "two seconds, it may have been as much as five seconds."

Assuming that the doubtful testimony of the son indicates that decedent was subjected to some strain, we are confronted with the question whether such strain produced his death.

It is undenied that decedent was suffering from a heart condition. Dr. Vaccaro, decedent's physician, testified that he examined him on October 18, 1945, and that he "was suffering from coronary arteriosclerosis or coronary heart disease and angina pectoris;" that he prescribed for him and treated him on several occasions until February 2, 1946; that

he recommended that a cardiograph be taken and referred decedent to Dr. Albright, who took it and reported back to the witness his findings with the tracing, and that the witness used same in reaching his diagnosis of decedent's condition.

Dr. Vaccaro did not testify as to any relationship between decedent's work and his death. In answer to a question on cross-examination:

"Q. Doctor, could a man of this man's physical condition as you found him at the time of your examination, drop ...


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