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N.D. workers comp office allows death benefits for family of sheriff's deputy


BISMARCK, N.D.—North Dakota’s monopoly workers compensation insurer has reversed a decision to deny death benefits for the family of a sheriff’s deputy who died of a heart attack while on the job.

The North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance office initially denied the claim, but reviewed it after Gov. Jack Dalrymple urged the insurer to re-evaluate its denial, a spokesman for the governor said Tuesday.

Burleigh County Sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Sleeper, 39, died of a heart attack in September after helping another officer make an arrest. WSI, however, denied a benefits claim under a law that presumes that heart attacks suffered by law enforcement personnel are caused by work-related stress unless they consumed tobacco during the past two years.

News reports say the deputy did not meet the two year tobacco-free criteria.

“The governor did urge WSI to take another look, and in that process I know they compiled additional information to what they had put together for the initial determination and based on that…they were able to show it was work-related and not tobacco-related,” the governor’s spokesman said.