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Obesity, blood clots at the center of New Jersey work comp case

In recent workers' compensation defense news, a New Jersey appeals court recently decided a rather interesting issue: whether the husband of an obese woman who died from a blood clot while working late in her home office is eligible for her work comp benefits.

According to the facts of the case, 47-year-old Cathleen R., a longtime employee of AT&T, worked from a home office three out of five workdays, sometimes putting in long hours.

Tragically, in 2007, Cathleen R. died from a blood clot that had formed in her leg and traveled to her lung.

Immediately prior to this tragic accident, she had been up all night finishing a project for AT&T.

Believing that the fatal blog clot formed while she was sitting at her desk, Cathleen R.'s husband filed a claim for work comp benefits.

However, AT&T fought the claim, claiming that certain pre-existing health conditions contributed to the formation of the blood clot.

Specifically, AT&T claimed that Cathleen R.'s weight - which exceeded 300 pounds - and her enlarged heart were the primary culprits for the clot. The company also pointed out that Cathleen R. had started taking birth control pills, which medical experts have long identified as creating an elevated risk of blood clots (particularly among overweight women).

Here, the New Jersey appeals court held that even though Cathleen R. "led a sedentary life in and out of work," doctors all seemed to agree that the fatal blood clot had formed sometime during the late night work hours preceding her death. This in turn was ruled to be sufficient evidence to support a work comp claim.

Interestingly, U.S. health officials have increasingly recognized blood clots as a growing threat to office workers.

"I consider it to be a huge public health problem right now," said Professor Russell Pate of the University of South Carolina. "In the space of a few decades, we've gone from having a very large percentage of occupations involving regular activity to one where those jobs are very rare."

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal or medical advice.

Related Resources:

New Jersey court OKs workers' compensation in obesity death case (Insurance Journal)

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