Unusual parking lot incident doesn't score benefits for guard
Case name: Fleming v. Garda Security, No. 10-CA-1021 (La. Ct. App. 05/05/11).
Ruling: The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that a security guard was not entitled to benefits for her post-traumatic stress disorder.
What it means: In Louisiana, a mental injury or illness resulting from work-related stress is not compensable unless the mental injury was the result of a sudden, unexpected, and extraordinary stress related to the employment.
A security guard was working in her guard shack located at a grain elevator plant in the early morning hours of a holiday. She saw a car speed into the parking lot, stop under the only functioning light with the motor running, and shine its lights at the guard shack. The guard was alone and unarmed. The car remained in the position for about 20 minutes before speeding out and onto the road. The guard was frightened, so she did not follow the required procedure of approaching the vehicle and asking if the person needed assistance. Instead, she called her supervisors, stating that she feared for her life and wanted to leave her post. After the incident, the guard sought treatment and did not return to her job. The guard had preexisting mental problems, including hospitalization. The guard sought benefits for a mental injury caused by mental stress. The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that the guard was not entitled to benefits.
Two doctors diagnosed the guard with post-traumatic stress disorder. Another doctor disagreed with that diagnosis and said she had depressive disorder or clinical depression with psychotic symptoms.
The court said that for a mental injury to be compensable, it must have been caused by an unexpected and unforeseen event that occurred suddenly or violently. The extraordinary nature of the stress is determined from the point of view of an "ordinary reasonable person of usual sensibilities." The employer argued that a security guard should expect persons might come to a closed facility. The guard's duties were to report unusual activity and ask visitors if they needed assistance. The court concluded that the incident was not an unexpected and extraordinary stress. The court noted that two doctors agreed that the guard was susceptible to reacting differently to the situation than someone without her mental history.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
July 5, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications