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Gronowski v. Industrial Commission of Ariz.

Supreme Court of Arizona

January 29, 1957

Sophia GRONOWSKI, widow, Robert Gronowski and Carolyn Gronowski, minor children, Petitioners,
v.
The INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION OF ARIZONA, defendant insurance carrier; and Ernest E. Chambers d/b/a Chambers Transfer & Storage Company, defendant employer, Respondents.

[81 Ariz. 364] R. R. Woodford, Phoenix, for petitioners.

John F. Mills, Phoenix, for respondent Industrial Commission of Arizona; John R. Franks, Donald J. Morgan and Robert K. Park, Phoenix, of counsel.

WINDES, Justice.

John Gronowski departed this life while on duty as an employee of Ernest E. Chambers dba Chambers Transfer & Storage Company. He left surviving a widow and two minor children. Claim for death benefits under the workmen's compensation act was filed. The Industrial Commission of Arizona, after rehearing, ultimately found that the decedent died as a direct result of myocardial infarction attributable solely to a pre-existing disease with no causal connection with his employment and death did nor arise out of his employment and entered an award denying death benefits. Upon petition by the dependents we issued certiorari to test the validity of the award.

Undisputed facts are that decedent was 38 years of age and had been working for the company for two or three years. He worked as a helper on a delivery truck and on the day of his death, he and witness Alva Murphree had delivered a fair-sized load of household furniture including a refrigerator and deep freeze. After completing the delivery Murphree remained in the house for a few minutes while decedent was outside standing beside the truck. When Murphree came out four or five minutes later he found decedent collapsed by the truck. He died soon thereafter. Murphree testified he never heard of decedent complaining about his physical condition except once about a year previous when decedent told him he had been to the doctor for gas on his upper stomach. This witness further testified that the refrigerator was a little heavy but was moved with a dollay; that he did not remember that deceased was subjected to unusual strian; and that he never complained of muscle strain from his work. The medical evidence established that the cause of death was myocardial infarction (injury to muscle tissue of the heart)

The only question presented is whether the evidence is such that the law will not [81 Ariz. 365] permit the commission to find that the myocardial infarction from which decedent died was attributable solely to a pre-existing

Page 286

coronary disease and there was no causal relationship with his employment. Two doctors testified concerning the question of causal connection. Dr. James D. Barger, who performed an autopsy, testified that decedent had a marked arteriosclerosis with marked diminution in the size of the lumen (the space in the artery) and that this was the cause of the infarction. In response to hypothetical questions, which assumed strenuous exercise immediately prior to the acute incidence, as to whether it was probable his labor was a precipitating cause of death the doctor said:

'A. I could say it is possible. I would hate to say that it is probable because I don't know enough of the circumstances, but it is possible that that could happen.

'Q. Doctor, we realize that you were not there and in fact none of us were, but of course it is possible, as you told me before, for a man to get up out of a chair and possibly have one of these? A. Oh, yes.

'Q. Or just be sitting there and have one? A. Yes.'

* * *

* * *

'A. Well, you want to say that this (the work) is the precipitating cause, and I say that it is possible and maybe even probable that it is the precipitating cause of the acute episode.

'Q. That is the only thing we are here to determine, Doctor. A. Yes, it is possible and probable that it could be the ...


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