State Supreme Court awards state trooper disability benefits

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overruled decisions of both a Workers Compensation Appeal Board and a Commonwealth Court. The Court has ruled to allow workers compensation disability benefits for a state trooper. The issue originally stemmed from an incident that took place on Nov. 29, 2006, in East Pennsboro Township, when a 28-year-old woman from Hampden Township darted into the path of the trooper's police cruiser and was killed.

According to court filings, the woman was seen wandering back and forth along the highway before she ran into the road in the dark on Interstate 81 while the trooper was on his way to work in Newport. He reportedly attempted to revive her while also attempting to keep both of them from being struck by oncoming traffic. She was later pronounced dead at the scene.

The officer originally returned to work in early 2007 after a period of what is believed to be just more than one month. When he did, he discovered that feelings of anxiety and stress severely limited his ability to perform his required duties. He then filed a workers compensation claim for benefits, claiming post-traumatic stress disorder. Both the Workers Compensation Appeal Board and a Commonwealth Court ruled that he was not eligible for benefits based on their belief that what transpired was not a sufficiently abnormal occurrence considering the normal working conditions that police officers are routinely required to face.

The Supreme Court accepted the case for adjudication and, in what was termed a close case, ruled in his favor. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a form of mental illness not normally associated with police work. In this case, the court ruled that the circumstances of the case made it sufficiently abnormal for the job so as to fall within the legal guidelines for the awarding of benefits under the law.

Source: Penn Live, "Supreme Court orders workers compensation benefits for state trooper involved in traumatic fatal crash on I-81", Matt Miller, November 04, 2013

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