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Night manager chased robbers: entitled to workers' compensation

An issue that comes up often in workers’ compensation cases in Colorado and elsewhere is whether the worker was engaged in employment at the time of the injury. The issue arose in another state when a convenience store manager chased a robbery suspect out of the store, drew a pistol and jumped on the robber’s car as it sped away. The man ended up being thrown from the car, and the traumatic brain injury kept him in a coma for five months until he died. The estate was denied workers’ compensation benefits because it was held that he had stepped out of his job by using a gun and chasing the suspect.

Chasing robbers, in effect, was not part of the man’s duties. However, that decision of the state’s workers’ compensation board was overturned by an appellate court and benefits were reinstated. It was held that, as the night manager, the man was concerned with the safety of personnel and customers. He was also acting not in his own interest but in the interest of the convenience store.

The decision of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court was recently announced and published. The opinion reversed the state workers’ compensation board, which had overruled a workers’ compensation judge’s award of benefits. The compensation board was apparently holding it against the decedent because he had once before shot and killed an armed robber while working at the store in 2007.

However, the Court pointed out that, in addition to the above, the employer had not disciplined the man for the gun possession in 2007 and had permitted him to carry a gun up until a very recent policy change. This issue could come up in Colorado, where residents involved in retail business carry guns routinely. It weighs competing interests in a close call that seems to have been rendered correctly by the recent out-of-state decision.

Source: The Patriot-News, "Store manager who suffered brain injury trying to stop thief is owed workers' comp, court says", Matt Miller, May 29, 2014

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