Death Benefits Awarded to employee’s widow for a worker who died in the restroom with heart disease

This is a Court of Appeal non published case

This is a very significant case for workers’ compensation principles.

The decedent was a tractor driver. He drove a tractor 10 hours a day and up to as many as 12 hours in one day. On one day he was washing mud off a tractor and disc when he reported having chest pain.

The foreman was going to drive the decedent to the doctor, but the decedent wanted to use the restroom first. He went in to a portable toilet and did not come out. The door was forced open and he was found dead.

The coroner indicated he died of natural causes. The widow filed a death claim. Two doctors reported that the heart attack resulted from the physical strain he exerted while using the restroom.

At trial the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) found the death compensable on the basis that his restroom activities arose out of and during the scope of his employment. A normal bodily movement was considered incidental to the employment.

Defendant filed for reconsideration. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board denied the petition and defendant filed a writ.

The appellate court upheld the decision indicating that when an employee suffers a heart attack brought on by strain it is compensable even though an idiopathic condition previously existed. The strain need not be unusual. The widow received a death benefit of $320,000.

Case: Star Insurance v. WCAB (Tavares)

Harvey Brown
3501 Jamboree Rd. Suite 602
Newport Beach, CA 92660

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