PA State Trooper awarded Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reversed the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court granting Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation benefits to an injured state trooper. Payes vs. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Commonwealth of PA State Police), Decided October 30, 2013. A women dressed in all black walked in front of the State trooper’s vehicle while he was on patrol on Route 81, impacting the trooper’s patrol vehicle, flipping over the vehicle and landing on the highway. The State trooper immediately pulled over and rushed to treat the women utilizing CPR while the women bled from her mouth. At the same time, the State trooper attempted to divert traffic on Route 81. The State Trooper was transported to the Hospital for testing and treatment related to this unfortunate event. The State trooper suffered from anxiousness and stress and has not worked with the exception of a few days of modified/light duty work
The Workers’ Compensation Judge awarded benefits finding that while state troopers are exposed to vehicle accidents in the normal course of their duties, state troopers are not normally exposed to the circumstances that occurred in this case. This ruling was later reversed by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board which was affirmed the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.
After granting allowance of appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court provided a review of Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law in regarding to abnormal working conditions including multiple cases involving Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Claims for Pennsylvania Police Officers. In the end, the Court found that the analysis of a mental-mental case is very fact sensitive and gave great weight to the Judge’s finding:
State Troopers are not in the normal course of their duties exposed to the circumstances that occurred in this case; to wit[,] a mentally disturbed individual running in front of a Trooper’s vehicle while he is operating the vehicle, for no apparent reason. Further what occurred at the point of impact and immediately thereafter are not working conditions which normally occur for State Troopers: Appellant’s attempted but failed resuscitation of the woman he killed on Interstate 81 while vehicular traffic is oncoming, waiting for assistance from other troopers.
The Court found that there indeed was objective evidence to support the State Trooper’s disability being directly related to his working conditions. Great weight was placed on the mental injury being objectively verifiable and traced to an identifiable source. The conditions this state trooper was exposed to was not normal. It was not a subjective reaction to a normal work event, but rather a “reaction to a highly unusual and singular event.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Commonwealth Court and remanded the matter for a reinstatement of the Workers’ Compensation Judge’s decision granting the Claim Petition.
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