Workplace Death

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Latest post Fri, Feb 5 2016 9:26 PM by adjuster jack. 10 replies.
  • Thu, Feb 4 2016 7:17 PM

    Workplace Death

    I am just curious about this because of a local crime that just happened.

    A retail store employee walked out into the parking lot on the way to her car after her shift ended.  A co-worker (allegedly) shot and killed her on her way to her car. (The co-worker has been arrested and charged with the murder.)

    Is this death considered a workplace death?

    I'm somewhat afraid that the answer is going to be, "The employee had already clocked out; therefore, not on the job at the time of the murder, therefore no workers comp claim for death on the job."

    I'd hope that the right answer would be, its a work-related death because that is where she was exposed to the murderous co--worker, who waited until she left the bldg to commit the murder.  But whether the murder occurred before or after she clocked out is irrelevant;  its a work-related death.  Its similar to deaths caused by exposure to lethal chemicals.  You don't say its "not" a work related death just because the person died in a hospital rather than right at the worksite.

    The reason I'm wondering is because the murdered employee was young and worked in a not-terribly high paying job.  It would be even more tragic if her family was now burdened with paying for her ambulance and ER bills, and burial expenses rather than having those covered by workers comp.

  • Thu, Feb 4 2016 8:06 PM In reply to

    Re: Workplace Death

    There's a good possibility that the death would be covered by workers comp.

    I found an article that says:

    "In Wisconsin case law and statutory provisions have extended coverage to the employer's designated parking lot..."

    http://workers-compensation.blogspot.com.br/2014/07/coming-and-going-rule-revisited.html

    Unfortunately, as is often the case, the writer doesn't cite any case decisions or statutes to support his assertion.

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • Thu, Feb 4 2016 11:06 PM In reply to

    Re: Workplace Death

    There are varying views of whether not murder in the boss's parking lot after work constitutes a workers comp claim.  For every lawyer that says yes, two say no, so it likely would have to be litigated in court.  OTOH, EVERY state has a victim's compensation fund that the family can apply for to help cover expenses.  Access to information for the funds in all 50 states is at this link: http://www.nacvcb.org/index.asp?sid=6

  • Fri, Feb 5 2016 12:55 AM In reply to

    Re: Workplace Death

    LegalSecy:
    But whether the murder occurred before or after she clocked out is irrelevant;  its a work-related death.  Its similar to deaths caused by exposure to lethal chemicals.  You don't say its "not" a work related death just because the person died in a hospital rather than right at the worksite.

    It is not the same. In the case of the exposure to the chemicals, the harm done occurred at the work place. That the death occurred elsewhere does not change where the harm occurred. But here the harm was the murder done by the co-worker. If that murder had instead been done at a local bar down the street it clearly would not be a workman’s comp claim issue simply because both people were employed by the same company or government agency. The injury itself must occur in the workplace. The injury from the chemicals does occur in the workplace. The murder (injury) from the co-worker’s attack in the bar does not occur in the workplace. Whether in your state the parking lot would still be considered part of the workplace after she had clocked out I do not know. But the analogy you wish to use of the chemical exposure does not fit.

  • Fri, Feb 5 2016 5:38 AM In reply to

    • cbg
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    Re: Workplace Death

    However, Wisconsin's definition of what's considered to be on the job is definitely broader than that of many states. I wouldn't rule out the possibility.

  • Fri, Feb 5 2016 7:22 AM In reply to

    • Kivi
      Consumer
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    Re: Workplace Death

    I was in the WC field before I retired. In my state, which is not WI, a lot might depend upon the purported reason the coworker came out and killed her. Was she his supervisor, for example? Or were the two currently or formerly involved in a romantic relationship? In scenario one, the nexus to the workplace is pretty strong. Very few judges would deny her family benefits, especially if she had issued him some kind of discipline or had recommended his termination. In nexus two, you could argue that management never mandated that the two of them date, etc. Ergo, the fact that she might have first met him at the job would not be enough to establish a workplace connection.

    My two examples are almost polar opposites. We don't know enough about their actual relationship to comment intelligently.  The middle ground between between these two extremes, of course, is that he made advances to her, she rebuffed him and he got angry. I could see this one going either way depending upon state law.

    We also don't know anything about her marital status, whether she had dependents, etc. In many states, WC benefits for a single employee with no dependents might be limited to a modest sum for burial expenses.

     

     

  • Fri, Feb 5 2016 8:55 AM In reply to

    Re: Workplace Death

    I see that the discussion is ongoing and I had a little time this morning so I looked for case law and found one case that involved the murder of one employee by another.

    The circumstances were somewhat different but the conclusion of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals (that there was coverage for the murdered employee) is interesting.

    Winsonsin Statutes 102.03 - Conditions of liability states:

    (1) Liability under this chapter shall exist against an employer only where the following conditions concur:     

    (a) Where the employee sustains an injury.       

    (b) Where, at the time of the injury, both the employer and employee are subject to the provisions of this chapter.       

    (c) 1. Where, at the time of the injury, the employee is performing service growing out of and incidental to his or her employment.          

    (c) 2. Any employee going to and from his or her employment in the ordinary and usual way, while on the premises of the employer, or while in the immediate vicinity of those premises if the injury results from an occurrence on the premises.  

    (e) Where the accident or disease causing injury arises out of the employee's employment.

    There are other elements that are required but the ones listed are those that are addressed by the court and may have a bearing on the situation reported by LegalSecy.

    In Applied Plastics, Inc. v. LIRC, 359 NW 2d 168 - Wis: Court of Appeals 1984 the court explained, with regard to "injuries arising out of employment," that it follows the "positional risk" doctrine.

    "The positional risk doctrine holds that an accident arises out of employment when the connection between the employment and the accident is such that the circumstances of the employment place the employee in the particular place at the particular time when he is injured by a force which is not solely personal to him. See Cutler-Hammer, Inc. v. Industrial Commission, 5 Wis. 2d 247, 253-54, 92 N.W.2d 824, 827 (1958). Put another way, the doctrine makes an injury compensable if it would not have happened but for the fact that the conditions or obligations of employment placed the employee in the position he or she was in when the injury occurred. Nash-Kelvinator, 266 Wis. at 86, 62 N.W.2d at 570 (1954). All that is required is that the conditions of employment create the "zone of special danger" out of which the injury arose. Id. (citation omitted). An injury can arise out of employment even though the accident which caused the injury was not "caused by the employment." See Cutler-Hammer, 5 Wis. 2d at 253, 92 N.W.2d at 827."

    With regard to performing "services incidental to employment" the court agreed that the Applied Plastics employee WAS performing "services incidental to employment."

    But can the same be said for the employee murdered by a fellow employee in the parking lot? I don't know the answer to that but the court, in Applied Plastics, made the following observation:

    ""The test of recovery is not a causal relation between the nature of employment of the injured person and the accident. Nor is it necessary that the employee be engaged at the time of the injury in activity of benefit to his employer. All that is required is that the 'obligations or conditions' of employment create the 'zone of special danger' out of which the injury arose." Fels v. Industrial Commission, 269 Wis. 294, 298, 69 N.W.2d 225, 227 (1955) (citations omitted). Worker's compensation law must be liberally construed to include all service that can be reasonably said to come within it. Id. at 297, 69 N.W.2d at 226."

    Could such liberal construction provide coverage for the employee murdered in the parking lot by a fellow employee? It's certainly food for thought.

    The statute and the case decision can be read at the following links:

    https://www.lawserver.com/law/state/wisconsin/wi-laws/wisconsin_laws_102-03

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=13255340316945364063&q=102.03+murder&hl=en&as_sdt=4,50

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • Fri, Feb 5 2016 12:00 PM In reply to

    Re: Workplace Death

    Hi,

    The news media hasn't yet reported a motive, and apparently that's still on ongoing investigation.

    What they have said is that the suspect has a history of mental illness and that he "used to" work at the same place as the murdered employee.  It also explicitly has been reported that it "wasn't clear whether [the suspect] had been fired from his job," which kind of makes it sound like the suspect probably was fired.

    There was also a police officer, apparently a very well liked police officer, who discharged her firearm in the process of apprehending the suspect, so the police officer is now on administrative leave pending investigation.

    The murder victim's aunt has appeared on TV talking about what a wonderful person the victim was.

    I guess it will all come out eventually.

  • Fri, Feb 5 2016 1:57 PM In reply to

    Re: Workplace Death

    LegalSecy:
    Is this death considered a workplace death?

    Considered by whom?  For what purpose?  Workers' comp, apparently.  In any event, the answer likely depends on the laws of the state where this happened, which you didn't identify (some of the other responses mentioned Wisconsin, but I'm not sure why since there's no mention of that state in your post).

     

    LegalSecy:
    I'm somewhat afraid that the answer is going to be, "The employee had already clocked out; therefore, not on the job at the time of the murder, therefore no workers comp claim for death on the job."

    Even if that's not the case, there's likely no valid workers' comp claim for something like what you described (and especially if, as your follow up post suggested, the killer was a former employee.

     

    LegalSecy:
    whether the murder occurred before or after she clocked out is irrelevant;  its a work-related death.

    Sure...colloquially speaking, it's "work-related" because the two persons involved worked together.  However, that fact, by itself, almost certainly isn't sufficient to support a workers' comp claim.

     

    LegalSecy:
    the murdered employee was young and worked in a not-terribly high paying job.  It would be even more tragic if her family was now burdened with paying for her ambulance and ER bills, and burial expenses rather than having those covered by workers comp.

    The only "family" member who might have liability for ambulance and ER bills is her husband, if she was married.  Burial expenses are a debt voluntarily incurred, so whoever contracts for them will, of course, be liable.

  • Fri, Feb 5 2016 4:10 PM In reply to

    Re: Workplace Death

    Well, now there's more info.

    The suspect was suspended for harrassing the victim at work.  While he was suspended the employer terminated him.  He went and bought a gun and stalked the victim for several days, texting other employees to find out when she was scheduled to be working. He showed up the day before the murder and considered going into the store to shoot her.  Then he realized he hadn't ever fired the gun so he went and practiced firing the gun instead of shooting the victim that day.  The next day he showed up in the employer's parking lot and lurked there waiting for the victim to leave work.  Then he shot her 3x in the parking lot.  He allegedly told police (according to court documents) that it was "easy" to shoot her.

    He's been charged with 1st degree intentional homicide.

  • Fri, Feb 5 2016 9:26 PM In reply to

    Re: Workplace Death

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
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