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Pennsylvania Woman Employed By Her Son Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits

In a recent, unusual case, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that a woman who was stabbed by her own son was entitled to workers’ compensation. The case arose while a mother was working under a contract as a caregiver for her son, who was in his thirties. In this arrangement, her son was considered her employer. The State paid for his care through a Pennsylvania Department of Welfare program.

He was living with her in her home in Westmoreland County for nine months before he attacked her. He required caregiving because he had serious health problems, including a drug abuse history. Doctors had amputated one of his legs.

The mother worked 40 hours on weekdays and 12 hours per day on the weekends taking care of her son. She was funded for up to 63 hours per week or 128 hours in a two-week period.

One Friday night, after she got home from Bingo, she prepared the couch as usual for her son and made something for him to eat, as part of her job. She would later say that even though she had worked the full number of hours for Friday already, she planned to charge the hours to Saturday’s work hours.

A few hours later, the son came into her bedroom with a 12-inch knife while she was sleeping. He cut her throat and stabbed her multiple times before the woman’s husband stopped him. She filed a workers’ compensation claim for physical and psychological injuries. She claimed loss of functioning in her left arm, soft-tissue injuries and disabling PTSD.

She was awarded $460 a week in benefits because her injuries were linked to her job as her son’s caregiver. For her disfigurement, she was also awarded 47 weeks of compensation. The judge reasoned that it was up to the son to show that the attack was based on personal animosity and not for a work-related reason.

However, her son challenged this award through the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board. He was serving a prison sentence for attempted murder and aggravated assault. The Board found 4-2 in his favor that the mother had not suffered a work-related injury. It ruled she was engaged in a recreational activity at the time, did not need to be on the premises, and therefore did not deserve benefits.

She appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which reversed. The court explained that even if she was not actually working for her son at the moment when he attacked, she was on the premises occupied by the employer, she was required by the nature of the employment to be present, and she suffered injuries caused by the operation of the business or condition of the premises.

The workers’ compensation judge had found that the employer-son could ask her to perform care whenever she was awake up to 64 hours per week. She didn’t have a separate residence and the only way to care for him was for him to live in the house. The court found that because she was required to live under the same roof as her son in the course of a state-paid caregiving position, she had incurred the injuries on the job.

If you are hurt on the job, even an unusual job, you may be entitled to benefits. An experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney can evaluate your case and if appropriate, file a claim on your behalf or fight your employer to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Contact the attorneys at Needle Law Firm at 570-344-1266 or via our online form for a free consultation.

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