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Aladits v. Simmons Co.

Decided: May 2, 1966.

MARY V. ALADITS, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
SIMMONS COMPANY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



For reversal -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor and Schettino. For affirmance -- Justice Hall. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.

Francis

This is a heart death workmen's compensation case. The Division of Workmen's Compensation decided in favor of petitioner. The County Court reversed because it found the proof inadequate to sustain the award. The Appellate Division affirmed the reversal on the ground that the state of the record was such as to justify the conclusion reached by the County Court. We granted certification. 46 N.J. 55 (1965).

Prior to his death on January 25, 1960, William Aladits had been in the employ of respondent Simmons Company for about 20 years. He was described as a broad shouldered, rugged man, six feet tall and weighing about 190 pounds. He had never been ill during his work for respondent. The only employment time he ever lost came from a sore ankle and a tooth extraction. He was 48 years of age at the time of his death, married and the father of two children. He worked as a loader in the shipping department. The work was heavy. He and a fellow employee operated as a team. His task was to obtain mattresses, box springs and sofas from various places of storage in respondent's warehouse, load them on a truck or skid, which he then pushed or pulled to a place where the articles were loaded on trailers for shipment. The truck or skid was about seven feet long, three feet wide and weighed about 200 pounds, and it had two metal posts and a cross-piece at one end. The mattresses weighed from 65 to 90 pounds; the box springs approximately the same. Sofas came in different sizes and weights, ranging from 150 to 600 pounds. Each truck would hold about ten mattresses or box springs; the sofas being larger and heavier would fill it more quickly. At times the mattresses and box springs were stacked in the warehouse in piles 14 or 15 high. In such

instances the loader would reach up and pull a corner of the article out far enough to enable him to drop it on the truck. Occasionally because of the location of the stack the loader would have to carry a box spring or mattress 20 feet to place it on the truck. Sometimes when an order called for 20 mattresses or box springs Aladits would take two trucks to the points of storage, load them and push one and pull the other to the location of the trailers. The fellow worker's task was to load the items on the trailer. A trailer load was usually close to 100 pieces.

On January 25, 1960 when Aladits left home at about 6:40 A.M. he appeared to be in perfect health. Around 11:45 A.M. Mrs. Aladits was informed that he had died at work.

The proof showed that Aladits began his usual loading task at 7:00 A.M. Between that hour and 9:30 A.M., coffee-break time, he and his co-worker had loaded two trailers with mattresses and box springs. Assuming ten such articles to a full truck or skid and 100 to a trailer load, this would mean Aladits had moved 200 mattresses and box springs from their place of storage to his truck and pushed or pulled the loaded truck 20 times from the place of storage in the warehouse to the location of the trailer (a distance not appearing in the record, although it was said that at times it would be necessary to travel the distance of a block or a block and a half within the warehouse to obtain material for loading.) On this assumption also, over the two and one-half hour period, he had loaded the truck, moved it to the trailer location and back to the warehouse storage place every seven and one-half minutes.

After the coffee-break Aladits resumed work. At about 10:00 A.M. his 16 year old daughter brought lunch to him as was her custom. When she handed him the lunch, he said he did not feel well and asked her to tell her mother that he would be home in a "little while"; he was going to ask one of his superiors if he could go home. The young lady said her father was a quiet man who was "not much for talking to anybody." If he did not feel well he would try to help himself

without talking about it. But if he was in "real distress" he would mention it. This testimony was not objected to by respondent and rightly so. In context it has all the indicia of trustworthiness. The statement was a natural one between father and daughter; there was no aspect of artificiality or ulterior motive or design about it. The circumstances clearly exclude any suspicion of an intention on Aladits' part to create evidence for future use; in fact they envelop the statement with an unclouded aura of truth. Although hearsay, the testimony was properly introduced and usable in evaluating the compensability of the death. Cf. State v. Thornton, 38 N.J. 380, 389 (1962), certiorari denied 374 U.S. 816, 83 S. Ct. 1710, 10 L. Ed. 2 d 1039 (1963); Gilligan v. International Paper Co., 24 N.J. 230 (1957); compensation award denied on remand, sub nom. Kasiski v. International Paper Co., 58 N.J. Super. 353, 369 (dissenting opinion) (App. Div.), reversed, per curiam, on basis of dissenting opinion, 31 N.J. 267 (1959); Kopitnikoff v. Lowenstein Bros., Inc., 24 N.J. Super. 434 (App. Div. 1953); Rainess v. Grant Finishing Co., Inc., 132 N.J.L. 422 (Sup. Ct.), affirmed 133 N.J.L. 611 (E. & A. 1945).

Aladits continued working after his daughter's visit. When the fatal event occurred around 11:30 A.M. a third trailer had been loaded except for three mattresses. He had left the trailer with his truck to obtain them. About five minutes later his partner was advised that Aladits was lying on the floor. The partner found him there about 40 yards from the trailer and about ten feet from his truck. The pile of mattresses from which he was to obtain the three needed to complete the trailer loading was ten to 15 feet from the truck. Aladits was dead. No autopsy was performed. The death certificate signed by the county physician gave the cause of death as coronary occlusion.

A specialist in internal medicine testified in behalf of petitioner. He had not known decedent nor did he examine the body. His opinion as to causal relation between the work effort and the death ...


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