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Salierno v. Micro Stamping Co.

Decided: September 19, 1975.

PASQUALE SALIERNO, PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
MICRO STAMPING CO., RESPONDENT-APPELLANT



Lynch, Ackerman and Larner. The opinion of the court was delivered by Larner, J.A.D.

Larner

[136 NJSuper Page 173] This is an appeal from a judgment of the Workmen's Compensation Division granting petitioner

an award which included compensation for total permanent disability.

Petitioner was a power press operator and die setter in respondent's manufacturing plant. In addition, he was the shop steward for the union which was the bargaining agent for the employees in the plant. On April 13, 1971, after a full day of work, he engaged in a negotiating session with the employer for the purpose of arriving at a new union contract. At this meeting there were present, in addition to petitioner, other representatives of the union as well as several representatives of the employer. Near the end of the meeting an emotional outburst took place at which time the employer's representative raised his voice and accused petitioner of making ridiculously unreasonable demands. In reciprocal fashion, petitioner became upset and in a loud voice charged that the employer's representatives were offering nothing for the new contract.

Shortly after this incident petitioner demonstrated symptoms indicative of a heart attack, including pain in the area of the heart, "a funny feeling" in his neck and throat, and pain in his arm. After his return home he was taken to the hospital where he remained for 21 days. His treating physician diagnosed the condition as a myocardial infarction.

After a convalescence of three months he returned to work at the end of July but carried out his duties with aid from his fellow workers. He remained under the care of his physician and experienced angina pains which were relieved by taking nitroglycerin pills.

On November 15, 1971 petitioner suffered another heart attack resulting in further hospitalization. This was diagnosed as another myocardial infarction of the same wall as the first, involving another branch of the same vessel. Thereafter he never returned to work.

As it is not uncommon in patients with heart episodes, petitioner suffered from preexisting underlying arteriosclerotic

heart disease with complicating diabetes. The testimony of the physicians produced by petitioner was that both infarctions and the ultimate total permanent disability were causally related to the tension and excitement of the negotiating session of April 13, 1971. The compensation judge found that the occurrence on that date was an accident arising out of and in the course of the employment and, furthermore, accepted the reliability of the conclusions of petitioner's physicians on the issue of causation as it related to both infarctions.

The primary contention asserted by respondent employee is that the incident at the contract negotiation session did not arise in the course of employment and hence the consequent injury is not compensable.

This issue as it pertains to a setting of a labor negotiation is a novel one in the State of New Jersey. Does an accident occurring during a bargaining session between the employer and employee, who is present as the shop steward and representative of the authorized union, after normal working hours on the employer's premises arise "in the course of employment" as required by the Workmen's Compensation Act (N.J.S.A. 34:15-1)?

We must approach this issue with the established tenet that the act should be given a liberal interpretation to effect the social policy of providing a remedy for injuries sustained by employment. Tocci v. Tessler & Weiss, Inc. , 28 N.J. 582 (1959); Complitano v. Steel & Alloy Tank Co. , 63 N.J. Super. 444 (App. Div. 1960), rev'd on dissenting opinion below, 34 N.J. 300 (1961). This liberal approach in favor of employees has served to extend the many fact patterns held to constitute activities "arising out of and in the course of employment." See, e.g., Gerard v. American Can Co. , 32 N.J. Super. ...


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