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Cohrs v. Igoe Brothers Inc.

Decided: January 15, 1962.


Gaulkin, Herbert and Kilkenny. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kilkenny, J.A.D.


The Division of Workmen's Compensation determined that petitioner was permanently disabled to the extent of 20% of total as the result of a fall at her place of employment and awarded her compensation therefor, besides ordering the payment of hospital and medical bills, as well as medical and legal fees.

On respondent's appeal, the County Court affirmed the award and also allowed petitioner interest at 6% from the date of the Division's judgment on each week's award to the date of entry of judgment in the County Court.

On this further appeal by respondent from the judgment of the County Court, respondent argues that (1) the petitioner

failed to sustain her burden of proof; and (2) the County Court erred in allowing interest dating back to the time of the award in the Division of Workmen's Compensation.

The employment relationship, the happening of the accident, due notice thereof to the employer, the nature of petitioner's permanent disability, and the timeliness of her claim petition are not in issue. Nor do the parties argue the correctness of the percentage of disability found by the Division, though petitioner's neurologists gave appraisals of 60% and 25%, as against a figure of 15% of total testified to by respondent's expert. The primary basic dispute is whether there exists a causal connection between petitioner's accident and her disabling condition of multiple sclerosis. Her medical experts swore that there is such a causal relationship and respondent's expert testified to the contrary.

Guided by Russo v. United States Trucking Corp. , 26 N.J. 430 (1958), and Ricciardi v. Marcalus Mfg. Co. , 26 N.J. 445 (1958), we have made our own independent study of the evidence, giving "due regard to the opportunity of the hearer of the evidence to judge of the credibility of the witnesses" and "full and respectful consideration of the views expressed on both fact and law" by the Division and by the County Court. We note that both tribunals concurred in finding causal relationship and that the deputy director made special mention of the fact that he was impressed by the honesty of petitioner's testimony.


Respondent concedes that petitioner sustained a compensable accident on July 30, 1957, when she slipped and fell on the floor of the office lobby, where she was employed as a switchboard operator and receptionist. She was then 42 years old and had been in the employ of respondent and its predecessor for about nine years prior to that date.

Petitioner's accident was a simple one. As she described it:

"I closed up the board at five o'clock and started to walk towards the front door to go -- well -- in fact, I was going to the ladies' room first, and I stood for a few minutes talking to one of the girls that was sitting there, and then continued on inside, and then came out to go out the front door.

When I came out, I slipped, I fell down. I turned on my arm and hit the side of my head."

She attributed her fall to the slippery, waxed floor. She explained that she struck the left side of her head, got up and was holding her hand, which started to swell up and hurt her, when the office manager, who was coming down the stairs at the time, came over to her. She stood there a few minutes and then continued on to get a bus over at the corner.

She testified further:

"* * * when I got on the bus I felt kind of funny. * * * I felt dizzy and started to get pain in the side of my face. * * * Left side. * * * and by the time I got home it was all numb to the center of my lip and it was paining me, and the back of my head, and I called Dr. Forte who is my family physician."

Dr. Forte saw her at her home on the day of the accident, was informed that she fell at her place of work, and found objectively, in examining her, "swelling, ecchymosis left side of face and lip, left arm and leg with tenderness." He treated her symptomatically, "put her on analgesics, diathermy to the arm and leg and then * * * gave her Vitamin B12 injections for her numbness she was complaining of in the face." Dr. Forte treated her further on July 30 and July 31, 1957 at her home and thereafter on August 5, 9, 12, 15, 22 and 29, 1957 at his office. While he had not discharged her as cured, she did not return to his office until January 2, 1958, at which time she still had discomfort, pain and numbness on the left side of her face. On the last-mentioned date, he examined

her superficially, made a diagnosis of "cerebral concussion, contusion of the left side of the face, head, face and left arm and leg." He found no neurological signs at that time. He prescribed the same medicine, told her to come back, but that was her last visit to Dr. Forte.

On cross-examination, Dr. Forte testified that, at her January 1958 visit to his office, petitioner complained of "swaying" and that he told her it could be the result of her injury, her concussion. He did not regard the swaying as a neurological sign and "didn't pay any attention to that." Dr. Forte had treated Mrs. Cohrs for four or five years prior to her accident, from eight to twelve times a year for "bronchitis, asthma, pleurisy, influenza, colds and menopausal syndrome," but she never complained before the accident of any dizziness, loss of balance, loss of sense of balance, or anything in that category.

Petitioner testified that the swaying and loss of balance first manifested themselves about two months after the accident and that she never had these symptoms prior thereto. She seems to have worked regularly before her mishap and engaged in bowling "maybe once a week with the girls." On cross-examination, she denied making any statements to her doctors that her dizziness and instability in walking had appeared prior to her 1957 accident. She particularly denied having told Dr. Furst or any other doctor who examined her in July or August 1958, or anyone else at ...

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