A widow of a deceased employee found herself responding to the appeal made by his deceased husband’s employer and its insurance carrier. The sudden death of her husband while on a business trip is in question.
On the morning of March 1972, as the now deceased man was in the process of checking out at the front desk of an Inn and Country Club. While on the front desk, he suddenly fell and struck his head on the floor. He came home to New York but unfortunately died one week later. His medical records revealed that the cause of his death is head injury and skull fracture. The said man is the Director of sales training for the employer in New York. He left New York on a business trip to Florida. The evidence discloses that the main objective of the trip of the now deceased man was to give the opportunity to carry on business discussions with customers of the employer and ultimately to address a sales meeting in Florida. All of the expenses of the trip were paid by the employer.
The employer and its insurance carrier appeal from the decision of the board which affirmed an award for death benefits allowed to the widow of the deceased employee based upon findings that the deceased had suffered a compensable accidental fall which resulted in his skull fracture and resultant death and that said accident arose out of and in the course of his employment. The widow claims that his husband did not have an accident arising out of the employment and that the damage was not occasioned by the willful intention of the employee. If the deceased man’s injury was occasioned by intent, he would, of course, be barred from compensation.
The Court found substantial evidence in the record to confirm the finding of the board that the now deceased man was in the course of his employer’s business at the time of his accident. In addition to the fact that the employer paid the expenses of the trip, the board found that during the now deceased man’s stay in the Inn and Country Club he was in frequent contact with a major customer of the employer.
The next contention of the appellants is that the accident did not arise out of the deceased man’s employment. The establishment of the fact that the fall was within the course of employment raises the presumption of the Workmen’s Compensation Law that it also arose out of the employment in the absence of substantial evidence to the contrary. The Appellants contend that the presumption has been overcome by direct evidence that the fall was unknown in origin, and therefore non-compensable. The Court disagrees. The physicians who examined the deceased testified that they could not discover an internal cause for the fall, nor could they determine whether decedent’s fracture caused or was caused by an internal brain hemorrhage. The only person present at the time of the accident could not state the cause of the fall and did not see the deceased hit the floor.
Thus, although the accident was in a sense witnessed, there is no proof on the question of whether it was self-originated, or whether it was caused by or its consequences contributed to by the desk or some other thing present in the environment in which decedent found himself in the course of his employment. An unexplained accident is the equivalent of an un-witnessed one.
Since it was not demonstrated that the fall was of unknown cause and arising spontaneously and caused in any part by the physical condition of the deceased, the accident is entitled to the presumption of the statute. The decision was affirmed.
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