Chapman v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co.

Decision Date29 March 1968
Citation426 S.W.2d 760,221 Tenn. 376,25 McCanless 376
Parties, 221 Tenn. 376 Maris CHAPMAN, Appellee, v. AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY CO., Appellant.
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

Jack R. Brown, Chattanooga, for appellee.

E. Blake Moore, Chattanooga, for appellant.


CRESON, Justice.

This is an appeal by the employer's insurance carrier from an adverse judgment rendered in the Chancery Court of Hamilton County, Tennessee, in a workmen's compensation proceeding.

The appellee, Maris Chapman, on November 9, 1966, filed a petition for benefits under the Workmen's Compensation Act for the death of her husband, Joe Chapman. At the time of his death, Joe Chapman was employed as a carpenter by Creighton, Ernst & Wallace. The Chancellor, after a full hearing, held that the employee's death was compensable and that the petitioner was entitled to a decree for full death benefits. An appeal has been timely perfected by Aetna, which seeks a reversal of the Chancellor's holding and a dismissal of the case. The principal issue involved is whether or not the employee's death from heart failure is to be regarded as one arising out of his employment; that is, referable to a hazard of his employment.

The deceased employee had been a carpenter for more than fifteen years prior to his death. On November 22, 1965, he applied for and was given a job as a carpenter by the construction firm of Creighton, Ernst & Wallace. His particular job at the time in question here consisted of setting and cutting poles, and hanging crossarms to the erected poles, as part of a repair project the contractor was doing for Atlas Chemical Company.

On October 27, 1966, the appellee's decedent and others were notified that they would be terminated the next day, due to a slack in the workload caused by the imminent completion of the repair project. This notification is said to hae been emotionally disturbing to the employee. He had difficulty sleeping that night and left early for work without breakfast the next morning. He did not actually work that day, October 28, 1966, with the exception of gathering some of his tools which were scattered over a large area. In the early afternoon he left his fellow workers to get a drink of water, and was found dead several minutes later, in a sitting position, on the ground near a water cooler.

The employee had a long history of heart trouble. He first became aware of the condition in 1961. In December, 1962, he was examined by a heart specialist, Dr. Fred Ballard, and was found to have a defective mitral valve and an enlarged heart. Between December, 1962 and the date of his death, the employee Chapman saw this heart specialist over thirty times. His condition grew progressively worse until he was advised that he should quit work and undergo a corrective operation. He was hospitalized in March, 1966; and in June, 1966 received further electro shock treatments to normalize the heartbeat. He was advised that his life could only be prolonged by a heart operation. Without it, it was impossible, medically, to tell how long he might live; since the heart could fail at any time without any real strain.

The Chancellor held that the death resulted from an accident arising out of the in the course of his employment; and that 'the notice of his termination and the physical exertion of his work aggravated his diseased heart condition and hastened his death.' This appeal requires a determination of whether or not there is material evidence to support the conclusion of the Chancellor that this death arose out of the employment; that is, whether the death was caused by a hazard incident to the employment. Ward v. Commercial Ins. Co. (1963) 213 Tenn. 100, 372 S.W.2d 292. We are constrained to the conclusion that there is not.

The medical testimony offered by the petitioner was that of the County Medical Examiner. His testimony, so far as personal observation is concerned, was based on an examination of the employee's corpse following the death. This Medical Examiner was testifying as an expert witness. The only testimony he offered as to causation came in response to a hypothetical question. The assumptions embodied in the question were in part factually incorrect.

Upon our examination of the whole record, it is abundantly apparent that the testimony of the County Medical Examiner is, with respect to causation, no more than a statement in the abstract that work and worry may aggravate an existing heart condition. On the other...

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11 cases
  • Bacon v. Sevier County
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • 15 Abril 1991
    ...397 S.W.2d at 371 (quoting 1B Larson's Workmen's Compensation Law, Sec. 38.83(h)). The next "stress case," Chapman v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 221 Tenn. 376, 426 S.W.2d 760 (1968), involved an employee with a pre-existing heart problem who had been informed that he was going to be termi......
  • Fulco v. Norwich Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • 16 Junio 1992
    ...609 A.2d 1034 ... 27 Conn.App. 800, 30 Wage & Hour Cas. (BNA) 1778, ... 7 IER Cases 1344 ... Dominic FULCO ... The NORWICH ROMAN ... denied, 102 N.M. 7, 690 P.2d 450 (1984); Chapman ... v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 221 Tenn. 376, 382, 426 S.W.2d 760 ... ...
  • Jones v. D.C. Dept. of Employment Services
    • United States
    • D.C. Court of Appeals
    • 14 Enero 1987
    ...v. Armour & Co., 362 So.2d 1344 (Fla. 1978); In re Korsun's Case, 354 Mass. 124, 235 N.E.2d 814 (1968); Chapman v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 221 Tenn. 376, 426 S.W.2d 760 (1968); City of Austin v. Johnson, 525 S.W.2d 220 (Tex.Civ.App. Finally, the Director asserted — without citation to ......
  • Goodloe v. State
    • United States
    • Tennessee Supreme Court
    • 19 Enero 2001
    ...embrace every stress or strain or undesirable experience encountered in the work place. Id. at 360. Finally, in Chapman v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 426 S.W.2d 760 (Tenn. 1968), this Court rejected the argument that a worker who had a heart attack the day after learning that he was being termi......
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