Savage v. St. Aeden's Church

Decision Date08 January 1937
Citation122 Conn. 343,189 A. 599
PartiesSAVAGE v. ST. AEDEN'S CHURCH et al.
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Appeal from Superior Court, New Haven County; Newell Jennings Judge.

Proceeding under the Workmen's Compensation Act by Charlotte Savage plaintiff, for the death of Joseph Savage, opposed by St Aeden's Church, employer, and others. From a finding and award of the compensation commissioner in favor of the plaintiff, defendants appealed to the Superior Court and from a judgment of the Superior Court affirming the award and dismissing the appeal, defendants appeal.

No error.

HINMAN and BROWN, JJ., dissenting.

Harry M. French and Daniel L. O'Neill, both of New Haven, for appellants.

John Clark FitzGerald, David E. FitzGerald, and David E FitzGerald, Jr., all of New Haven, for appellee.

Argued before MALTBIE, C.J., and HINMAN, BANKS, AVERY, and BROWN, JJ.

BANKS Judge.

Joseph Savage was in the employ of the defendant St. Aeden's Church, and on the morning of October 21, 1935, entered the rectory of the church shortly after 8 o'clock. He was not seen alive again. About half past 4 that afternoon his body was found on the floor of the recreation room which was in the basement of the rectory. He was lying flat on his back, his overalls partly on, a painter's cap by his head, and on the pool table nearby his bag with the paint brushes he expected to use in his work at the rectory. He had apparently fallen backward on the concrete floor and fractured his skull. The commissioner found that the proximate cause of his death was the fracture of his skull upon the concrete floor, and that the cause of his fall was unknown, though he also found that on August 9, 1934, he was suffering from a cystolic murmer at the apex of his heart. He further found that the fatal injury arose out of and in the course of the employment.

That Savage's injury was suffered in the course of his employment appears not to be questioned. So far as appears, it occurred within the period of the employment, at a place where he might reasonably be, and while he was reasonably fulfilling the duties of the employment or doing something incidental to it. Ryerson v. A. E. Bounty Co., 107 Conn. 370, 372, 140 A. 728. Defendants contend that it did not arise out of the employment. " An injury arises out of an employment when it occurs in the course of the employment and is the result of a risk involved in the employment or incident to it, or to the conditions under which it is required to be performed." Marchiatello v. Lynch Realty Co., 94 Conn. 260, 263, 108 A. 799. This presupposes a causal connection between the employment and the injury. Larke v. John Hancock Mutual Life Ins. Co., 90 Conn. 303, 309, 97 A. 320, L.R.A.1916E, 584. Our compensation act now provides that personal injuries shall not be deemed to arise out of the employment " unless causally traceable" to it. General Statutes, § 5223.

The commissioner has found that the proximate cause of decedent's injury was the fracture of his skull on the concrete floor which resulted from his fall. The claim of the defendants is that, if the fall was due to causes outside of the employment, the resulting injury was not due to a hazard of the employment, and there can be no recovery. Defendants seek a correction of the finding that the cause of plaintiff's fall was unknown, to the effect that it was due to a fainting spell or a heart attack, which was the opinion of the doctor who had treated him in 1934 and subsequently, and who examined the body after he was found dead. Whether or not the correction is made is immaterial. The burden is upon the plaintiff to prove that decedent's injuries were due to a hazard of his employment. If they were proximately caused by a heart attack, or by some unknown cause, there is a failure to prove that they arose out of the employment. The question, then, is whether the fall or a heart attack, or some other occurrence outside the course of the employment, caused the injury.

The question is one of proximate causation, and is answered by our decision in Gonier v. Chase Companies, Inc., 97 Conn. 46, 115 A. 677, 678, 19 A.L.R. 83. In that case an employee who had been subject to fainting spells was killed as a result of a fall from a staging upon which he was working. The case came to this court on a reservation, one of the questions asked being: " Did the death of Gonier, resulting from a fall from the staging, caused by a temporary unconsciousness due to disease, constitute an injury arising out of his employment?" We answered the question in the affirmative, holding that an injury received in the course of the employment does not cease to be one arising out of the employment merely because some infirmity due to disease has originally set in action the final and proximate cause of the injury. The employer of labor takes his workman as he finds him and compensation does not depend upon his freedom from liability to injury through a constitutional weakness or latent tendency. " Whatever predisposing physical condition may exist, if the employment is the immediate occasion of the injury, it arises out of the employment because it develops within it." Hartz v. Hartford Faience Co., 90 Conn. 539, 543, 97 A. 1020, 1022; Richardson v. New Haven, 114 Conn. 389, 392, 158 A. 886. Here, as in the Gonier Case, the fall was the immediate cause of the injury; and the constitutional weakness of the employee, which was claimed by the defendant to be the cause of the fall, is not an element to be considered in determining whether the injury arose out of the employment. In this, both cases differ from the case of Porter v. New Haven. 105 Conn. 394, 135 A. 293, cited by the defendants, where a fireman standing in the door of the engine house where he was employed was pushed by another who was not a fellow employee and fell on the concrete floor. This phase of the present case is governed by the Gonier Case rather than the Porter Case.

The defendants contend that even though the fall was the proximate cause of decedent's injuries, they did not arise out of his employment. The claim is that there was no defect in the concrete floor or other dangerous conditions liable to cause injuries, that Savage was not subject to any greater risk than if he had been on the street or in his home, and consequently his injuries were not the result of a hazard peculiar to his employment.

An injury which occurs in the course of the employment ordinarily arises out of the employment, because the fact that the employee is in the course of his employment is the very thing which subjects him to the risks which are incident to the employment. Reeves v. John A. Dady Corporation, 95 Conn. 627, 631, 113 A. 162. An act or omission for the exclusive benefit of the employee or of another than the master is not ordinarily a risk incident to the employment. Larke v. John Hancock Mutual Life Ins. Co., 90 Conn. 303, 309, 97 A. 320, L.R.A.1916E, 584. Thus, in Porter v. New Haven, supra, the risk of being pushed by a stranger was not any greater by reason of his employment than if he had been on the street or in his own home and therefore was not a risk incident to his employment. So too when an employee voluntarily departs from his duties, as by engaging in a fight with a fellow employee, his injuries result from his own act and have their origin in a risk which he has created and which has no causal connection with his employment. Jacquemin v. Turner & Seymour Mfg. Co., 92 Conn. 382, 386, 103 A. 115, L.R.A.1918E, 496. Also, of course, death from natural causes, although occurring in the course of the employment, has no causal connection with it, as would have been the case here if a heart attack had been the direct cause of Savage's death rather than the fall to the concrete floor. But, aside from situations such as...

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  • Clements v. Aramark Corp.
    • United States
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    • June 24, 2021 the Appellate Court, which reversed the decision of the board. The Appellate Court concluded that, under Savage v. St. Aeden's Church , 122 Conn. 343, 189 A. 599 (1937), injuries sustained by an employee as a result of an idiopathic fall onto a level surface are compensable as a matter o......
  • Henderson v. Celanese Corp.
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    ...places other than places of employment (a condition), and is therefore not peculiar to the employment'); Savage v. St. Aeden's Church, 122 Conn. 343, 189 A. 599, 601 (Sup.Ct.Err.1937), a case precisely in point, wherein it was said: 'The risk may be no different in degree or kind than those......
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    ...of an epileptic seizure, arises out of the employment. Georgetown College v. Stone, 61 App.D.C. 200, 59 F.2d 875; Savage v. St. Aeden's Church, 122 Conn. 343, 189 A. 599; Gonier v. Chase Companies, Inc., 97 Conn. 46, 115 A. 677, 19 A.L.R. 83; Rockford Hotel Co. v. Industrial Comm., 300 Ill.......
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    ...such injuries in fact, and regardless of whether the same injuries would have resulted outside the employment. Savage v. St. Aeden's Church, 122 Conn. 343, 189 A. 599. And to such point is certain of the language of the Court in the Connelly case, supra, where it indicates compensation woul......
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