Widow proves compensable connection between injuries, suicide
Case name: Smith v. Cornell University, et al., 110 NYWCLR 213 (N.Y. App. Div. 2010).
Ruling: The New York Appellate Division affirmed the Workers' Compensation Board's determination that the death of a painter, who committed suicide several years after sustaining work injuries, was causally related to his employment.
What it means:
In New York, workers' compensation death benefits may be awarded for a suicide if it resulted from depression caused by a work-related injury.
Summary: A painter committed suicide several years after sustaining work injuries. The painter's widow contended that the suicide arose from the injuries, chronic pain, and depression caused by the accident. The court noted that the painter's workers' compensation claim for the accident had previously been established for consequential depression, and the painter's treating psychiatrist confirmed that his disability and accompanying chronic pain led to his depression and suicide. Also, an independent medical examiner agreed that the painter's disability and pain contributed to his depression and suicide. Based on this evidence, the court said the board properly found substantial support for its award of death benefits.
The court rejected the employer's argument that other factors contributed to the painter's suicide and severed the causal link with the work injuries. A compensable accident need only be a contributing cause of the resulting mental injury, and the board appropriately found that a sufficient causal relationship existed between the accident and the painter's depression and suicide.
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January 24, 2011
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