Morrison Mahoney partner Ted Murphy secured a decision in favor of our client -a government defense contractor- in a wrongful death case brought under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act. The decedent sustained a work-related back injury during the initial years of his employment at our client’s shipyard. In 1981, a federal administrative law judge awarded him permanent total disability benefits under the Act as a result of the career-ending injury.
Over the following decades, he became increasingly sedentary, obese, diabetic and hypertensive. He eventually succumbed to congestive heart failure. His family contended that his development of obesity-related diseases and death were related, at least in part, to his disabling back injury. His treating physician supported this theory as did a professor of nephrology at a leading medical school. Both the decedent’s wife and daughter gave sympathetic testimony about his physical and mental decline following the injury.
The Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) who heard the death case adopted the testimony of our client’s neurology, cardiology, and internal medicine experts, all of whom maintained that the decedent retained an ability to engage in a level of modest exercise sufficient to prevent the development of obesity. The judge determined that the treatment notes of the primary care physician, which documented decades of non-compliance with dietary recommendations, medications and exercise, ultimately undermined the veracity of his opinion on causation. Similarly, the judge found that plaintiff’s second expert overestimated the extent of the decedent’s back pain and disability and inappropriately minimized the decedent’s dietary and medication non-compliance. The ALJ then denied the death claim in a 21-page single spaced opinion leaving Ted victorious.