Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Murder and Minnesota Workers' Compensation

Everyone knows that some jobs are more dangerous than others and that some workers are more likely to get hurt on the job than others. But the risk of being murdered on the job is not something anyone should have to think about. 

I was shocked and saddened to read that an 18-year-old woman was murdered in Montevideo, Minnesota on Friday night. I’m originally from Southwest Minnesota near Monte and I have family in Montevideo.

This young woman, who leaves behind an 18-month old son and a fiancĂ©e, as well as her parents, was stabbed to death by a 24-year-old co-worker as she left Pizza Ranch after finishing her shift. The initial news reports suggest that the suspect, who had worked with the victim for a year, had become infatuated with the young victim, but the feelings weren’t mutual. Apparently, the suspect was somewhat of a social outcast and the kind-hearted victim had been friendly to him. As a result he started offering to do her chores at work and began giving her cigarettes. It is unclear whether or not the suspect had also been working a shift at Pizza Ranch that night prior to the murder. It is expected that he will be charged with first degree murder.

I extend my deepest sympathies to the family of the young victim.

Dependents of workers who are killed in the course and scope of their employment in Minnesota are eligible for death and dependency benefits, including burial expense benefits of up to $15,000.00, and dependency compensation. Dependents can include: 1) spouses, 2) children under the age of 18, 3) children under the age of 25 who are full-time students, and 4) children over the age of 18 who are deemed to be physically or mentally incapacitated from earning. Other family members, including the deceased workers’ mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, sister, brother, mother-in-law, or father-in-law, may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if the family member was wholly or partially supported by the deceased worker.

Thankfully, murder is not an issue that comes up too often in workers’ compensation in Minnesota. That being said, depending on the circumstances, even when a worker is murdered on the job in Minnesota, it may or may not be covered by workers’ compensation.

Minnesota workers’ compensation law sets forth that
"Personal injury does not include an injury caused by the act of a third person or fellow employee intended to injure the employee because of personal reasons and not directed against the employee as an employee, or because of the employment." Minn. Stat. §176.011, Subd. 16. 
In plain language what this means is that an employee must show that the injury (or death) caused by a third-party or co-worker was unintentional, or if it was intentional, motivated by the fact that the employee was an employee.

Over the years, the court developed a test, as set forth in Hanson v. Robitshek Schneider Co., 11 W.C.D. 463, 297 N.W. 19 (1941), which divides cases involving intentional acts, including murder, into three categories:
  • Where the assailant is motivated by personal animosity towards his victim arising from circumstances wholly unconnected to the employment, the employee’s injuries are not compensable under Minnesota workers’ compensation. 
  • Where the assailant was provoked or motivated solely out of the activity of the victim as an employee, the employee’s injuries are covered under Minnesota workers’ compensation. 
  • Where the assault was directed at the victim neither solely due to the employment, nor solely due to personal reasons, these cases are usually compensable. 
In the young woman’s case above, because there are indications that the suspect was obsessed with the victim, it is not 100% clear which category this case would fit into. While it might be possible to argue that there are potential defenses to this claim, I would sincerely hope that the workers’ compensation insurance company does the right thing. 


Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails