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Preexisting PTSD claim affirmed by New York Appellate Division

The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court has ruled in favor of an employee in an unusual workers' compensation case. This may, in fact, be the first case of its kind for the court.

According to court records, the situation leading to the claim occurred in 2007 and 2008. The claimant was working at an upstate New York supermarket as an assistant manager. One day he phoned a co-worker, a woman, about a work-related matter. The woman's husband took the call as evidence that his wife and the claimant were having an affair. This was not true.

Nevertheless, the co-worker's husband proceeded to threaten the claimant. Again, according to court documents, the husband was also involved in a murder-for-hire plot against the claimant. He also contacted the claimant's manager about his suspicions, and the inquiry caused the manager to launch an internal investigation. The claimant requested a transfer to another store.

This series of events would be disturbing for anyone. The claimant already suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and his symptoms worsened, he said, as a result of the matter. His condition kept him from working, so he filed a workers' compensation claim. The claim was allowed because his PTSD was work-related.

The supermarket's parent company contested the claim every step of the way. The court approved the initial claim, agreeing with the claimant that his PTSD was work-related. The supermarket appealed to the New York State Workers' Compensation Board. A three-member panel from the board upheld the decision; when the full board reviewed the decision, it, too, affirmed. Finally, the case went to the appeals court.

In its decision, the appeals court found that the phone call triggered the events -- particularly the harassment at his workplace -- that caused the PTSD symptoms to recur. The court found the necessary "nexus" between the phone call and the claimant's pre-existing PTSD. The claimant will get his disability benefits.

Source: Business Insurance, "Employee targeted for murder by co-worker's husband due comp benefits for PTSD," Stephanie Goldberg, July 8, 2014

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