Arizona—Compensability Standards for PTSD
On February 18, 2020, the Court of Appeals of Arizona, in France v. The Industrial Commission of Arizona, clarified the standard for determining whether a mental injury is eligible for workers compensation under Arizona statute 23-1043.01(B), which denies workers compensation for mental injuries “unless some unexpected, unusual or extraordinary stress related to the employment … was a substantial contributing cause of the mental injury, illness or condition.”
The court ruled that “unexpected, unusual or extraordinary stress related to the employment” must be read as a whole to mean that the injury-inducing stress imposed on a claimant because of the employment was sufficiently significant and noteworthy to differentiate it from noncompensable, general stress caused by the claimant’s work regimen. The court reasoned that, to determine if the event that caused the mental injury was work related, the analysis should focus on whether the stress a claimant was exposed to because of the employment was “unexpected, unusual or extraordinary” and not on whether the event itself met the standard.
Applying the clarified standard, the court set aside the decision from the Industrial Commission that denied workers compensation benefits to a deputy sheriff diagnosed with PTSD resulting from a work-related event, and did not address a constitutional challenge to section 23-1043.01(B) as applied to claimants who work in high-stress occupations.
This decision could be appealed. NCCI will monitor for further developments.
Missouri—Enhanced Mesothelioma Benefits
On February 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of Missouri, in Hegger v. Valley Farm Dairy Co., ruled that a workers compensation insurer was not liable to provide enhanced mesothelioma benefits pursuant to a 2014 statute, where the insured employer ceased to exist 16 years prior to the statute’s effective date.
The court reversed an appellate court ruling that the insurer was liable for enhanced mesothelioma benefits, reasoning that Missouri statute 287.200.4(3)(a)—which allows for recovery of enhanced mesothelioma benefits against employers that elect to accept mesothelioma liability by insuring their liability—requires an affirmative act by an employer with respect to the enhanced benefits. The court found that a business entity that ceased its operations before the enactment of the statute could not be liable for enhanced mesothelioma benefits because it did not affirmatively elect to accept such liability.
The court further found that now-defunct employers facing claims for workers compensation benefits for mesothelioma are not deemed to have elected to accept enhanced liability under 287.200.4(3)(a) solely by virtue of having workers compensation coverage at the time of an employee’s last exposure to asbestos. The court added that, under the plain language of the statute, employers that do not make the requisite affirmative election for the enhanced benefit have rejected such liability and are thereby exposed to civil suit.
For more information on other cases monitored by NCCI’s Legal Division, visit previous Court Case Updates and
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