A foundry worker had a stroke at work. He filed for workers’ comp, arguing that working in a 100° room contributed to the stroke. Will the employee get comp benefits?
John Ruschak suffered a stroke at work that left him paralyzed on his left side and unable to work.
His job at Victaulic Co. in Easton, PA, was to carry heavy buckets up stairs and use a jackhammer to remove slag from the mouth of a furnace.
The temperature in the area where he worked was 100°. (A Victaulic plant superintendent claimed the temperature was closer to 70°.) The place where Ruschak worked was called the “hot room.”
Ruschak wore welding clothes under a fire suit and sweated profusely during work.
The company said the area is cooled by fans that force in outside air and workers are provided liquids and encouraged to take breaks when needed.
The company’s defense was that Ruschak had been treated for high blood pressure for several years. But Ruschak’s attorney argued that it was under control with medication.
Ruschak was 48 when he had the stroke in May 2010.
When the case went before a workers’ comp judge, other Victaulic employees testified that the working conditions weren’t as severe as Ruschak had claimed.
When there is conflicting testimony in workers’ comp hearings, the judge can use her discretion to determine which side is more credible.
In this case, the judge rejected the testimony from the other workers and the company’s medical expert. The judge awarded Ruschak $1.1 million for wage losses at the rate of $718 per week, which is 66% of his former weekly pay. Workers’ comp will also cover his related medical expenses.
Victaulic says it will appeal to Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, but the company had no other comment on the case.
Ruschak’s attorney, David Stern, told the Morning Call newspaper that the decision is noteworthy because claims that working conditions contributed to a stroke are difficult to prove. Another legal expert contacted by the newspaper agreed that these types of cases are usually difficult for the injured worker to prove.
Few other details on this case are available aside from the accounts provided mostly by Ruschak’s lawyer in local newspapers.
Putting this case aside for a moment because not all details are available, do you think if an employee’s stroke at work was caused by a combination of high blood pressure, hot conditions and strenuous tasks that the worker should be eligible for workers’ comp? Let us know what you think in the comments below.