The opinion of the court was delivered by McGEEHAN, S.J.A.D.
The petitioner appeals from the judgment of the Passaic County Court which affirmed a judgment entered in the Division of Workmen's Compensation dismissing the petitioner's claim for compensation.
The petitioner was employed by the respondent as a trucker in its warehouse. While at work in the warehouse pushing a hand truck, on which there was a bale of wool weighing approximately 350 pounds, the petitioner collapsed, became unconscious and was taken to the employer's clinic. He suffered a coronary thrombosis resulting in a myocardial infarction. At the hearing before the deputy director, he attempted to prove that while pushing the hand truck it became stuck in a hole in the floor and in trying to free it by force he slipped to the floor and the hand truck toppled on his chest; that this activity constituted an unusual or unexpected strain or exertion arising out of his employment; and that his heart attack was caused thereby. There was conflict in the evidence as to what actually happened about the time of the petitioner's collapse, and question as to the credibility of certain witnesses.
On this appeal the petitioner argues; (1) that the court erred in capriciously rejecting the testimony of a competent witness, (2) that the petitioner sustained the burden of proving that he suffered a compensable accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, and (3) that the County Court erred in its failure to make an independent finding of fact on an appeal from a decision of the Workmen's Compensation Bureau.
On a claim for compensation for a heart injury, there is a presumption that the heart injury is the result of natural physiological causes and the petitioner has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the probabilities, that his heart attack was caused by an unusual or unexpected strain or exertion arising out of his employment and beyond the mere employment itself. Seiken v. Todd Dry Dock, Inc., 2 N.J. 469 (1949); Grassgreen v. Ridgeley Sportswear Mfg. Co., 2 N.J.Super. 62 (App. Div. 1949), cert. den. 1 N.J. 603 (1949); Temple v. Storch Trucking Co., 3 N.J. 42 (1949).
The deputy director made no finding of fact as to the particular activity in which the petitioner was engaged at the
On appeal to the County Court in a workmen's compensation case, the hearing before the County Court must be based "exclusively on the transcript of the record and testimony" below, and the County Court judge must file with the clerk of the court a determination, in writing, of the merits of the controversy. R.S. 34:15-66. The findings of the deputy director are part of the record and the County Court, in coming to its determination, must consider the deputy director's findings of fact and give due, although not necessarily controlling, regard to the opportunity of the deputy director to judge of the credibility of witnesses. Donofrio v. Haag Brothers, Inc., 10 N.J.Super. 258 (App. Div. 1950); cf. Universal Camera Corp. v. N.L.R.B., 71 S.Ct. 456 (U.S. Sup. Ct., 1951).
On appeal to this court from the judgment of the County Court, we accord determinative weight, in the first instance, to the factual findings of the County Court. Donofrio v. Haag Brothers, Inc., above. Particular weight is given in this court to the findings of fact of the County Court, when such findings agree with the findings of fact in the Division of Workmen's Compensation. Cf. Wright v. Westinghouse Elec. & Mfg. Co., 134 N.J.L. 581, 583 (Sup. Ct. 1946), affirmed 135 N.J.L. 460 (E. & A. 1947); Brighton v. Rumson, 135 N.J.L. 81 (Sup. Ct. 1947). It is only when we are satisfied that the interests of justice require it, that we make independent findings of fact. Rule 3:81-13; cf. Rules 1:2-20 and 4:2-6.
We are unable to deal properly with the merits on this appeal without having the benefit, first, of the essential findings of fact by the Division of Workmen's Compensation which
The judgment is reversed. The record shall be remanded to the County Court and by it remanded to the Division of Workmen's Compensation for the filing, by the deputy director, of new findings on the record and the entry of a consequent judgment. No costs.