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Widow wins benefits almost six years after husband's death on job

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The widow of a worker who suffered a heart attack on the job is due workers compensation and death benefits, a New York appeals court has ruled.

Edward Kilcullen, a process operator working in Albany International Airport's glycol facility, which produces glycol for deicing aircrafts, sustained a myocardial infarction and collapsed on the job on Dec. 14, 2010.

Having suffered brain damage from the myocardial infarction, Mr. Kilcullen never regained consciousness and died on Dec. 21, 2010.

His spouse, Rita Kilcullen, filed claims for workers comp and death benefits, but both were denied by the worker's employer and its insurer.

Following hearings, a workers comp law judge found that Mr. Kilcullen's work “contributed” to his myocardial infarction and that his “death arose out of and in the course of his employment.”

The Workers' Compensation Board agreed with the judge's findings in March 2014, leading the employer to appeal.

A three-judge panel of New York's Appellate Division, 3rd Judicial Department, in Albany on Thursday unanimously affirmed the board's decision.

A doctor who reviewed the worker's medical records opined that his “work activities immediately prior to his collapse, in combination with the environmental conditions at that time … were significant contributing factors to decedent's acute myocardial infarction and resulting death,” the appellate court's ruling states.

In addition, according to case law, “a heart injury precipitated by work-related physical strain is compensable, even if a pre-existing pathology may have been a contributing factor and the physical exertion was no more severe than that regularly encountered by the claimant.”