Is my employer/supervisor liable for me suffering heart attack due to my having to perform strenuous work not a regular part of my job?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Is my employer/supervisor liable for me suffering heart attack due to my having to perform strenuous work not a regular part of my job?

I am a retail manager. My new supervisor directed me to empty lower level stockroom of product. For over 7 years this space has been used the same way. No explanation given as to why even though I asked numerous times. A completion date was established. If not 100% empty, I would receive a performance document. I’ve been in retail for 30 years without ever receiving one. On 04/11 our elevator was closed due to mechanical and safety issues. On 04/13, my supervisor communicated that the 04/18 deadline was still the goal. Pulling pallets of merchandise from the basement, outside, up a long hill, around building and in through the front door with another associate, I experienced a heart attack. Is the company/individual liable?

Asked on May 28, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Connecticut


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, they are not liable.
1) They did not cause your heart attack--people strenuosly exert themselves all the time without having heart attacks. The attack was due to you having some pre-existing heart condition or predisposition. Without some condition or predisposition, there is no heart attack. Since there was an intervening medical cause, they are not liable.
2) Someone is only liable for the reasonably foreseeable, or logical predictable, consequences. Your heart attack was not resasonable foreseeable--as stated, people do strenuous work all the time without heart attacks. Therefore, for this reason, too, they are not liable.
3) Your job is whatever they tell you it is--that's part of "employment at will." So whether this was part of your "regular" duties or not is irrelevant; that has no bearing on their abilty to require this. And under employment at will, if you didn't want to do this, your right is to quit--they can't force you to do something which you might have thought was unfair, inappropriate, or unwise, since you can walk away from the job. Having decided to keep your job and do this, you are held liable for the consequences of your voluntary choice.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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