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Booker v. James Spence Iron Foundry Inc.

Decided: July 3, 1963.

LEOLA BOOKER, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES SPENCE IRON FOUNDRY, INC., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT



Conford, Gaulkin and Kilkenny. The opinion of the court was delivered by Conford, S.j.a.d.

Conford

In this workmen's compensation case respondent disputes determinations by the Hudson County Court in favor of petitioner, both in respect of the causal connection between the workman's death and his employment and as to petitioner's status as the dependent widow of the decedent. The Division of Compensation held adversely to petitioner on both issues, but Judge Duffy reversed and directed the entry of an award. We have concluded he was right.

I.

[The court decided that there was causal relationship between the decedent's work and working conditions and his fatal heart attack.]

II.

Petitioner, Leola Booker, entered into a ceremonial marriage with the deceased workman, Coleman Booker, on January 18, 1958 in Jersey City, and they lived together in that city until his death on August 28, 1959. No children were born of the marriage. Respondent impugns Leola's status as statutory dependent wife of the decedent. It does so by contending that both Leola and decedent were legally married to other persons at the time they entered into the 1958 marriage to each other. We consider first the case as to Leola's prior marital involvement.

A.

Leola was married in Georgia to one Sandy Bulger (or Bolger) in March 1939 and lived with him until 1941, when

they separated. To a question on cross-examination, "You have never been divorced to your knowledge? He has never divorced you and you have never divorced him; is that correct?" she responded, "That is right."

At the time of separation Leola and Bulger were living in Jersey City. He was then employed by the New Jersey Central Railroad. Leola never saw him after 1942 and did not know whether he was alive or dead as of her own knowledge. She testified, however, over objection, that Bulger's father, who then resided in Newark, told her in 1954 or 1955 that Bulger had died and been buried in Virginia. Petitioner had been told that Bulger's father died two years before the hearing. Bulger had no other living relatives.

Respondent sought to establish that Bulger was alive in 1958 through the testimony of one Catherine Johnson. She appeared as a witness February 17, 1961 (hearings in the case began July 15, 1960). She said she was first approached about this case by Maynard Booker, a brother of the decedent, in October 1956 , a time she identified as being when she first moved to Jersey City. Maynard asked her if she knew Bulger. She was approached by an investigator for the respondent on February 8, 1961. She testified she had known Bulger for several months in 1947, but did not see him thereafter until the spring of 1958 when she was getting off a bus in Newark, encountered him on the street, and spoke with him briefly. She next saw Bulger, she stated, on February 7, 1961 (the day before she spoke with respondent's investigator), when he was boarding and she leaving the same bus in Jersey City. They exchanged brief greetings. For some unexplained reason, she was asked by the Jersey City Police Department the day before her testimony to identify a snapshot of a person described to her by the police as Bulger, but she could not do so.

Mrs. Johnson testified that the Friday evening before the hearing (which would be February 10, 1961) she went to Newark directly after finishing work in Jersey City and visited three ...


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