No. 051756-01 (2005). John Huff.

Case Date:November 10, 2005
MASSACHUSETTS Workers Compensation 2005. No. 051756-01 (2005). John Huff COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF BOARDINDUSTRIAL ACCIDENTS NO. 051756-01John W. Huff (deceased) Employee Evelyn Huff Claimant TLC Companies, Inc. Employer AIM Mutual Insurance Co. InsurerREVIEWING BOARD DECISION (Judges McCarthy, Carroll and Horan)APPEARANCESThomas F. Grady, Esq., for the claimant Robert J. Riccio, Esq., for the insurer at hearing and on brief Holly B. Anderson, Esq., for the insurer on briefMcCARTHY, J. John W. Huff, an experienced long-haul truck driver, lived with his wife, the claimant, Evelyn Huff, in Worcester Massachusetts. On July 21, 2001, he left the Commonwealth in his employer's tractor-trailer on a trip scheduled to take him to Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. (Dec. 3.) Mr. Huff was found on July 26, 2001 at about 8:00 p.m., "lifeless and face down wedged under the passenger's seat of the tractor with his feet facing the front of the compartment. He was lodged from the waist up under the sleeper portion of the bunk, back in the rear behind the seats of the truck." (Dec. 4.) The tractor trailer unit was observed on July 26, 2001 in the late afternoon by Melvin Strother. It was parked in a truck stop plaza in Dublin, Virginia with the hood up, the motor running, the doors open and truck tools, gear and motor oil set around both sides of the tractor. Mr. Strother did not see the employee at that point. Virginia State Trooper John Jones was dispatched to the truck stop and arrived there at about 7:45 p.m. The cab doors were still open, the hood was up and the motor was still running. Truck tools and gear and motor oil were near both sides of the tractor. (Dec. 4.) "Rescue squad members and numerous Virginia State Police officials experienced considerable difficulty but succeeded after twenty minutes in extracting the decedent whose upper body was wedged in a space between the bunk platform and the mattress. The decedent's upper back on the right shoulder and left lower back had scrape marks. The evidence elicited from Trooper Jones suggests that the decedent had died well prior to the time his body was discovered." (Dec. 4.) In the face of conflicting medical testimony on the cause of death, the hearing judge adopted the opinion of Dr. William Massello, III, the Assistant Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia, who performed an autopsy on July 27, 2001. Dr. Massello noted that the employee was found dead lying face down, wedged in the parked truck with tools in the vicinity. The autopsy revealed no obvious abnormalities of the internal organs which might have caused Mr. Huff's death and there were no specific lethal injuries. (Dec. 5.) With respect to causal relationship, Dr. Massello opined that Mr. Huff died from mechanical asphyxia as demonstrated by the history of being wedged in the truck; marked plethora of the face and a pressure mark on the lower abdomen. The judge adopted Dr. Massello's testimony and opinion as "persuasive and compelling." (Dec. 6.) The judge indicated that he relied on the testimony of Melvin Strother with respect to information about the truck during the late afternoon of July 26, 2001. (Dec. 7.) The judge also placed specific reliance on the testimony of Trooper Jones to the effect that Mr. Huff's upper body was wedged inside the truck and that "many emergency and police personnel took twenty minutes because of considerable difficulty in freeing his body." (Dec. 7.) Neither Mr. Strother nor Trooper Jones...

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