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Hewett v. Industrial Commission

Supreme Court of Arizona

June 12, 1951


Judgment affirmed.

Leonard S. Sharman, of Phoenix, for petitioner.

Donald J. Morgan, Phoenix, for respondent Industrial Commission of Arizona.

H. S. McCluskey and Robert E. Yount, Phoenix, of counsel.

La Prade, Justice. Udall, C. J., and Phelps and De Concini, JJ., concur. Stanford, Justice (dissenting).


La Prade, Justice.

Page 851

[72 Ariz. 204] This case is before the court on certiorari to review an award of the industrial commission denying death benefits to the applicant-widow for the death of her husband, alleged to have been caused by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment. The deceased employee, while actively engaged in his employment as a gasoline filling-station attendant, was set upon by two robbers, severely kicked in the area of the abdomen and right side, and shot in the left shoulder. These events transpired shortly after midnight on February 3, 1950. The victim was immediately taken to a hospital where he was treated by Dr. G. B. Stewart of Coolidge, Arizona. On February 7th he was released from the hospital, at which time the attending physician was of the opinion that he would need no further treatment and would be able to return to work by February 17th. He reentered the hospital on the evening of February 10th, suffering from intense abdominal pains. He was seen early the next morning by Dr. Stewart, at which time patient was complaining of considerable pain radiating from all around the stomach area "up to -- into the heart -- and [72 Ariz. 205] into his left arm," --. His pulse was weak and thready, with blood pressure quite low. The doctor ordered that he be given oxygen and was about to direct additional treatment and care when the man suddenly died. In view of the fact that the patient died so quickly and suddenly, the doctor made a tentative diagnosis of coronary thrombosis.

An autopsy was performed by Doctors Maurice Rosenthal and James R. Moore. The autopsy report of Dr. Rosenthal reads in part as follows:

"* * *. There was a diffuse, retroperitoneal hemorrhage found in the abdominal portion. The inferior vena cava was essentially normal but surrounded by blood and blood clot. No thrombi or emboli were found within the lumen of the inferior vena cava. Just at the bifurcation of the aorta a fusiform aneurysm approximately the size of a hen's egg was found and a perforation measuring 3 cm. in diameter was noted. The inner lining of this aneurysm presented an attached, organizing blood clot. The hemorrhage traveled also along the mesenteric artery and ran upwards and under the diaphragm leaf. The tracheal and tracheobronchial lymph nodes were small and anthracotic in appearance. The tracheal and bronchial mucosa revealed a moderate degree of congestion.

* * *

"* * * At the bifurcation of the aorta, a fusiform aneurysm previously described was noted and the gross appearance was that of an arteriosclerotic aneurysm with spontaneous rupture.

* * *

"Conclusions: The immediate cause of death in this subject was due to a rupture of an arteriosclerotic aneurysm at the bifurcation of the aorta with retroperitoneal hemorrhage. No relationship could be established between the bullet wound in the left shoulder and the immediate cause of death.

"From the clinical history obtained it appeared that the subject was said to be recovering satisfactorily from the bullet wound sustained several days previously and no anatomical relationship between this wound and the rupture of the aneurysm of the aorta could be established at the postmortem examination." (Emp. sup.)

We also quote from the autopsy report of Dr. Moore:

"* * *. On removing the thoracic and abdomen viscera en bloc the hemmorrhage

Page 852

was found to be retroperitoneal and quite extensive. The hemorrhage originated from a rupture of an aneurysm of the abdominal aorta located just above the bifurcation into the iliacs. The walls of the aneurysm showed marked calcified deposits and clots within the lumen. * * *

"* * * Correlating this clinical history with gross findings at postmortem, death was undoubtedly due to the rupture [72 Ariz. 206] and hemorrhage of the above described abdominal aneurysm which was of the arteriosclerotic type.

"From these findings it would appear that death was not caused or hastened by the shoulder wound." (Emp. sup.)

At the formal hearing before the commission, and here, the applicant advances the theory that the evidence conclusively discloses that the aneurysm and resulting hemorrhage had been caused or in part induced by excitement, nervous shock, the kicking, and the gun ...

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