Employer Liable for Worker's Stroke
In many cases, it’s very clear when a company is liable for a worker’s injury. For instance, if a construction worker gets hurt on a jobsite, more than likely the employer will be responsible for covering the worker’s lost wages and associated medical bills.
But what happens if an employee suffers a non-orthopedic injury, such as a stroke at work? Is the company still liable?
In a recent workers’ compensation case in Easton, PA, the answer is yes.
The employee from Forks Township, John Ruschak, 50, was working as an auto pour operator at a manufacturing plant in May 2010 when he suffered a stroke, which caused paralysis on the left side of his body.
His application to receive workers’ compensations benefits was contested by his employer, Victaulic Construction Piping, which did not agree with Ruschak’s claim the stroke was work related.
Based on the evidence presented by Ruschak and his attorney, the judge agreed the working conditions were a significant factor in Ruschak’s stroke.
At the time Ruschak suffered the stroke, he was employed as an auto pour operator. The job required him to work in a place referred to by employees as the “hot room,” iron was heated into liquid form at a temperature of 2,500 degrees.
His responsibilities included operating a 22-pound jackhammer and carrying two 35-pound buckets up a flight of stairs.
The job required Ruschak to wear an aluminum-coated kevlar suit over top welding clothes. Additionally, heavy steel-toed boots, fireproof splash guards up to his knees and a helmet, similar to those worn by welders, had to be worn for protection.
At the time he suffered the stroke, Ruschak was operating a jackhammer and felt a pinching sensation in the back of his head. He lost the ability to move his legs, and was quickly taken to a local hospital, where he was in a coma for three weeks.
The judge’s decision will mean Ruschak, if he remains disabled, will receive $718 per week, which is equivalent to just 66 percent of what he earned before the accident.
Over his lifetime, the total payout in wages could be in access of $1.1M.
In addition, the company was also held liable for all of Ruschak’s past and future medical expenses related to the stroke.
Ruschak’s attorney, a prominent Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney, David Stern, commented on the importance of the judge’s ruling in such an “exceptionally unusual” workers’ compensation case.
“I am ecstatic for John [Ruschak],” said Stern. “The reality of the situation is that he’s paralyzed on his left side and his condition is unlikely to change.”
Ruschak will receive his benefits through the company’s workers’ compensation insurance policy, which employers are required to carry.