A bank teller was working when an armed man robbed the bank. The robber held her at gunpoint and threatened to kill her and others before fleeing. The extreme stress of the incident led the teller to suffer a heart attack.
After she underwent a heart catheterization, a doctor learned that the heart attack was brought on by a condition called Takotsubo syndrome, which causes heart attack symptoms in people with no coronary artery disease or no blockage in the arteries after a stressful event. The teller was prescribed a lipid-lowering drug to reduce the reoccurrence of a second heart attack and a beta blocker to protect her heart from the excesses of physical activity and emotional stress. The doctor stated that he was uncertain as to the length of time that the teller might be kept on the prescription medications.
The teller also underwent psychological treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the emotional distress she experienced during the bank robbery. The teller was assigned a 5 percent permanent
disability impairment as a result of her psychological injuries and no impairment from a physical injury standpoint.
After the teller's heart returned to normal and she reached maximum medical improvement, the bank stopped paying for her prescriptions. The teller sought to reinstate the compensation for her prescriptions.
The Workers' Compensation Board ruled that the employer was not required to provide the teller with her medications on an ongoing basis.
Was the board correct in denying benefits to the teller?
The teller is entitled to compensation for her prospective use of the medications because they limit or reduce the extent of her impairment.
Any recurrence of a heart attack would be related to a discrete stressful event and would not stem from the injuries she sustained as a result of the bank robbery.
C. No. The teller's psychological condition since the bank robbery puts her at a higher risk of another heart attack.
How the court ruled: B.
The court ruled that the board correctly decided that the teller was not entitled to ongoing benefits for her medications. Abbott v. MainSource Financial Group, No. 93A02-0912-EX-1261 (Ind. 08/06/10).
The court stated that the Indiana statutes give the board discretion to award prospective medical treatment. The evidence showed that the teller was at risk for another Takotsubo syndrome-induced heart attack if she was again put under similar emotional stress. The doctor explained that only extreme stress would likely trigger another heart attack.
A is incorrect. The medications were prescribed to treat the teller's high blood pressure and shortness of breath, to prevent atherosclerotic disease and to protect her heart in the event of a future heart attack. The teller's physicians stated that she had recovered from the cardiac event related to the bank robbery and that her heart had "returned to normal" after treatment. Additionally, the 5 percent permanent partial impairment rating was given based on her psychological injuries, not physical injuries.
C is incorrect. The court stated that the evidence did not support the assessment that she was at a higher risk for another heart attack.
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October 6, 2010
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