In a decision that reversed the original ruling, the Supreme Court of New Jersey said that the family of a woman who died of a blood clot after working for 10 hours behind her desk is not eligible for workers’ comp benefits.
Cathleen Renner died in 2007 of a clot in her lung after she had worked an overnight shift from her home for AT&T. Court documents noted that she was on a strict deadline and was feeling a lot of pressure so she worked all through the night. In 2011 a court awarded her husband and three children benefits. A lawyer for the family said that there is risk associated with prolonged sitting and that her pulmonary embolism was caused by her long sedentary shift.
However, AT&T took the case to a higher court, arguing that other lifestyle factors like her obesity and use of birth control medication may have contributed to her death. They said her work was not an unusual or outside threat to her based on her lifestyle, though the family contested that she was active in her life outside of work. The doctor said that her clot developed within the time she was working and, had she not been sitting so long, the embolism might not have developed in the first place. Clots form in the legs when a person is not moving for a long period of time, and then they can break away from the vein and travel to the lungs, which is what happened to Renner.
The state Supreme Court overwhelmingly ruled to reverse the ruling citing lack of evidence that her work was the cause of her death. In this case summary, the court said she could have gotten up and moved around during her work, it was not the company’s fault that she sat for so long.
This case was significant in the sense that it was pretty unusual, and the facts are so unique that it might be hard to use this ruling as an application to other cases.