Super Bowl Stress Qualifies for Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits

The claimant’s deceased husband suffered a heart attack and died on Super Bowl Sunday of 2010 while working as acting store manager of a Waldbaum’s supermarket in Roberts v. Waldbaum’s, 513795, 2012 WL 4449387 (3d Dept., September 27, 2012). Claimant applied for workers’ compensation death benefits alleging that the heart attack (myocardial infarction) was triggered by the stress and excitement resulting from the responsibility of running the entire store on Super Bowl Sunday, an historically busy day at the store. Also, several hours earlier decedent was involved in an altercation with an irate customer. The Appellate Division upheld the determination of the Workers’ Compensation Board that decedent’s death was causally related to his employment.

Interestingly, claimant’s medical expert concluded that the heart attack was triggered by the stress and excitement of the day even while conceding that decedent suffered from extensive cardiovascular disease. The employer’s expert concluded that there was no evidence of significant work-related stress or aggravation immediately preceding decedent’s collapse, and therefore decedent’s death was not causally related to his employment.

The court noted that although the altercation with the customer occurred hours before decedent’s death, the employer’s expert also testified that, while uncommon, it is possible that an event that does not occur in close proximity to a myocardial infarction could still be a triggering event.

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