On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Labor, Division of Workers' Compensation, Claim Petition No. 2007-29662.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Cuff and Fasciale.
Respondent, AT&T appeals from a January 11, 2011 order awarding dependency benefits to petitioner James Renner following his wife Cathleen's death from a pulmonary embolism. The workers' compensation judge determined that petitioner's claim is compensable under the standard governing cardiovascular injury or death, N.J.S.A. 34:15-7.2 (Section 7.2). We agree and affirm.
The facts giving rise to AT&T's appeal are set forth in our earlier unreported opinion. Renner v. AT&T, No. A-3237-09 (App. Div. November 29, 2010).*fn1 We summarize briefly those facts here.
Cathleen worked at AT&T for twenty-five years and was a salaried manager at the time of her death. When Cathleen worked from home, she sat at her computer for long hours to meet various deadlines imposed by AT&T. Although she had a "nine-to-five" job, at home she worked all hours of the day and night.
On Monday, September 24, 2007, Cathleen began working on a project at home in the evening. The parties disputed the length of time she worked that night, but computer records demonstrated that Cathleen sent an email to a co-worker at 12:26 a.m. When her son awakened at 7:00 a.m., Cathleen was at her desk in her home office. At 9:00 a.m., Cathleen advised a co-worker that she was not feeling well but would keep working to complete the project. She finished the project from home and sent an email to a co-worker at 10:30 a.m. At 11:34 a.m., Cathleen called 9-1- 1 because she could not breathe. She was pronounced dead when she arrived at the hospital. She died from a pulmonary embolism.
Dr. Leon H. Waller, petitioner's expert, opined that sitting for an extended period of time precipitates stasis of blood flow that leads to the formation of blood clots. He concluded within a reasonable degree of medical probability that Cathleen's work effort of sitting at her desk for long periods of time contributed to a material degree in causing her death. He acknowledged Cathleen had other risk factors, such as obesity and using birth control pills, but reasoned that her inactivity while working was to blame because the blood clot was unorganized and therefore, developed within the time period she was working.
Respondent's expert, Dr. William S. Kritzberg, opined that Cathleen's pulmonary embolism was caused by a combination of her various risk factors. Kritzberg admitted, however, that "it would certainly be less likely" for Cathleen to have a pulmonary embolism had she not been working that day.
The compensation judge concluded that the claim was compensable under Section 7.2. and found that Cathleen's work inactivity was greater than her non-work inactivity. He determined that Cathleen's inactivity at work caused her pulmonary embolism in a material way. He stated that Cathleen led an "active life," her job required her to "spend unusually long hours at her computer," and that the blood clot developed as a result of her work inactivity.
On appeal, AT&T argues that the findings of the workers' compensation judge were not supported by the evidence. AT&T contends there is no evidence that (1) Cathleen's work effort or strain was in excess of the wear and tear of her non-work activities, and (2) Cathleen's work activities caused the pulmonary embolism.
Our scope of review of the factual findings of a Judge of Compensation is limited. Close v. Kordulak Bros., 44 N.J. 589, 599 (1965); Manzo v. Amalgamated Indus. Union Local 76B, 241 N.J. Super. 604, 609 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 122 N.J. 372 (1990). The standard of review governing appellate intervention is "whether the findings made could reasonably have been reached on sufficient credible evidence present in the record . . . consider[ing] . . . the proofs as a whole[.]" State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 162 (1964). If the judge's findings satisfy this standard the result should not be disturbed, even if the court might have reached a different conclusion had it been the ...