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Pennsylvania Liquor Store Manager Holds Onto Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Mental Injuries Received During a Robbery

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently upheld an award of workers’ compensation benefits to a liquor store manager who was robbed at gun point while working. The worker had a gun pointed at the back of his head while the robber forced employees to empty out the cash registers. At one point, the injured manager was tied to a chair with tape and prodded with a gun. The robber advised that they needed to wait 20 minutes before calling anyone because he might return to the store. The manager waited approximately five minutes and called the police anyway after the robber left, removing himself from the tape and chair.

The injured manager had worked for 30 years at his job, and he had never been robbed prior to this incident. The injured manager requested time off due to the robbery and saw his own physician and a social worker who was referred by his employer. The injured manager also saw a psychologist upon a referral from his attorney. Prior to the robbery, the manager had no other psychological problems or need for therapy. The injured manager testified that the events were far from a normal work day, and that he did not feel he could return to his previous position because he feared another robbery.

The injured manager’s treating psychologist testified that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with resulting anxiety and depression, as a result of the robbery. The psychologist stated that the injured manager could not return to his pre-injury position. The employer also had a psychologist examine the injured manager, and that expert also opined that the injured manager experienced PTSD with continued anxiety and depression, and he needed traditional talk therapy along with prescription medication. The employer also introduced evidence through testimony and documents that the injured manager was trained about robberies and what to do when one occurred.

In order to obtain benefits in psychiatric workers’ compensation cases, the injured employee must show that he or she suffered mental health injuries following an occurrence under abnormal working conditions. The employer presented evidence of potential-robbery training in order to rebut the injured manager’s position that he was injured under abnormal working conditions. However, the Workers’ Compensation Judge, upon review of all the evidence, concluded that the robbery was not a normal societal or workplace occurrence, and that the injured manager suffered psychiatric injuries as a result of the robbery.

Upon appeal, the Commonwealth Court initially sided with the employer and reversed the WCJ’s order. The injured manager appealed to the state Supreme Court, which reversed the Commonwealth’s ruling and remanded the case back to the Commonwealth Court. Upon its second review, and remaining in line with the case precedents cited by the Supreme Court, it found that the conditions testified to in the original hearing constituted abnormal working conditions, following previous cases.

It can be a tough, complicated fight to win and maintain an award of workers’ compensation benefits. For aggressive Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorneys, call the lawyers at Needle Law Firm, P.C. at 570-344-1266.

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