DEATH FROM WORK-RELATED STRESS LEADS TO FULL WORKERS
Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled that stress can be an occupational disease
which will support a workers compensation claim.
resulted from the death of a secretary who worked at a high-stress job at Duke University
evidence showed that the secretary worked under an exceptionally demanding
doctor who criticized her in front of others and was generally abusive towards
secretarys doctor testified that her pre-existing diabetic condition had been
exacerbated (made worse) by stress from her work under the abusive doctor at
the Duke University Medical
department. The doctor further testified
that it was more likely than not that the secretarys diabetes caused her
Carolina Industrial Commission awarded the heirs of the deceased secretary full
workers compensation benefits because of its holding that the death was caused
by her work-related occupational disease.
holding, Judge McCullough, writing for the court wrote that the doctors
opinion: Was based not only on the
temporal sequence of events, but also on statistical information and the
doctors knowledge of the history of the decedents condition.
employer had argued to the court that the doctor who treated the secretary for
her diabetic condition had offered only speculative evidence about the actual
cause of her death.
aggravation of her diabetic condition caused her to experience a loss of most
of the vision in her right eye by April of 1997. In January of 1998 the secretary lost most of
the vision in her left eye. However, the
secretary continued to work for the defendant until April 1, 1999 when she
was placed on disability retirement. The
secretary died on January 10, 2004.
Thereafter, her sole heir brought this action for full workers
compensation death benefits.
This is one
of the few cases in which workers compensation benefits have been awarded to a
non-law-enforcement-officer based upon a stress-related disease.