Training, frequency of robberies undermine posttraumatic claim
Case name: Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board, No. 760 C.D. 2010 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 09/20/11).
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that a manager's post-traumatic stress disorder was not compensable.
What it means:
In Pennsylvania, when a worker alleges a psychic injury, he must prove that he was exposed to abnormal working conditions and that his psychological problems are not a subjective reaction to normal working conditions.
Summary: A general manager of a liquor store was working when the store was robbed. The perpetrator pointed guns at the manager and prodded his head with a gun. The perpetrator stole money and tied the manager and a coworker to chairs with duct tape. The manager was not physically injured during the robbery, but after the incident he experienced anxiety, depression, and flashbacks. A psychologist diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He sought total disability benefits. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that the injury was not compensable.
The court found that robberies are a normal condition of retail liquor store employment in today's society given the frequency the employer's stores had been robbed and the proximity of recent incidents. The manager could have anticipated being robbed at gunpoint, as he had attended training specifically geared toward robberies and thefts, and he received educational booklets on handling a robbery.
The manager admitted that the store was not in a "low risk" area, had a high volume of shoplifting, and had customers almost on a daily basis that he considered to be safety risks.
A dissenting judge opined that the injury was compensable and said the majority overemphasized the role of "foreseeability" in determining whether the workplace event was normal. The judge also pointed out that one of the store's training pamphlets said that robberies occurred "very infrequently."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
November 3, 2011
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