According to a news source, a New Jersey appeals court has determined that the husband of an obese woman who died of a blood clot after working long hours in her home office may recover workers’ compensation benefits. Cathleen Renner, who had been employed by AT&T for 25 years, apparently died after working overnight to finish a project from her home office in Edison; a blood clot apparently formed in her leg and lodged in her lung. Renner’s husband filed a workers’ compensation claim on her behalf following her death, alleging that the clot developed while she was at her desk. AT&T claimed that conditions, such as Renner’s sedentary lifestyle, enlarged heart and obesity (she apparently weighed more than 300 pounds), which were unrelated to her job, caused the clot. She had also reportedly begun taking birth control pills, another risk factor for blood clots.
While acknowledging Renner’s sedentary lifestyle, the court determined that she was even less active when she worked from her home office. With the medical experts agreeing that the clot likely formed during her overnight work session, the court ruled that the evidence was sufficient to support the workers’ compensation claim. A company spokesperson indicated that it was reviewing the ruling, but did not apparently indicate whether AT&T would appeal the decision to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Legal commentators are evidently uncertain how the decision will affect other obesity-related cases, given the narrow section of the law at issue. Still, they recognize that the ruling could have broader implications with millions of Americans working at sedentary desk jobs. See Insurance Journal, June 30, 2011.