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Family of firefighter who died of heart attack receives workers compensation benefits

This week the Court of Appeals upheld the award of workers compensation benefits to the family of a Sterling Heights fireman who died after his third heart attack.  A decision by the "Engler Majority" of the Supreme Court several years ago significantly narrowed the entitlement to workers compensation benefits of employees whose disability stems from other contributing causes in addition to employment conditions.  The firefighter, Randall Paige, suffered his first heart attack while treating an accident victim in 1991.  He suffered injury to the heart and was totally disabled and awarded compensation.  Ten years later he suffered a second, and then a third heart attack which killed him.

Paige's dependents sought survival benefits, however, the City and its insurer argued that his death was caused, in significant measure, by pre-existing or unrelated conditions including a genetic predisposition to cardiovascular disease, a smoking history and obesity. The City argued that these "other" contributing causes rendered Paige and his family ineligible for workers compensation, but the Court of Appeals ruled that there was ample support in the record for the workers compensation magistrate's finding that Paige's employment-related injury was the primary cause of death.

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