Case Law Update | Dietz v. WCAB (Pa. Cmwlth. December 4, 2015) | PA Work Injury

December 4, 2015

Judith Dietz (Claimant) petitions for review of an adjudication of the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Board) denying her petition for fatal claim benefits for the death of her husband, Robert Dietz (Decedent), which occurred while he was on the job. The Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ) had granted, on remand, the fatal claim petition, finding a causal connection between Decedent's long day of work and his fatal heart attack. The Board reversed because it concluded that the evidence did not establish the requisite causal connection. Concluding that the Board erred, we now reverse.

 

On appeal, Claimant asserts that the Board erred in reversing the grant of fatal claim benefits. Claimant argues that she did meet her burden of proving causation because her evidence, which the WCJ credited, showed that Decedent's 14-hour workday doing physical labor in field maintenance induced his fatal heart attack. Employer responds that Claimant failed to establish causation because there was no record evidence as to the weather conditions on the date in question or what work Decedent performed [12]  that could support Dr. Wolk's opinion that the long day, cold weather, stress and physical labor precipitated Decedent's heart attack. We agree with Claimant.

 

Here, Claimant testified to Decedent's regular job duties, which included using a jackhammer to tear up roads, working on water mains and cutting tree roots out of the sewer system. It is undisputed that Decedent had a very physical job. Decedent did not alternate between days of heavy duties and days performing light office duties. His daily job involved strenuous physical activity. On November 7, 2007, after an extremely long day of work, he collapsed beside the water main. This evidence is sufficient to support Dr. Wolk's opinion that the long workday and physical activity caused the fatal heart attack.

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