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Traffic controller due comp benefits for mental injuries


A municipal worker who routinely responded to serious motor vehicle accident scenes is entitled to workers compensation benefits for mental injuries, a Missouri appellate court has ruled.

Linda Mantia provided traffic control and assistance at motor vehicle accident scenes for the Missouri Department of Transportation for more than 20 years, court records show. Later in her career, she and her crew responded to only the most serious accidents, many of which involved catastrophic injuries, dismemberment and death.

By 2008, after having worked at about 1,000 accident scenes, Ms. Mantia began suffering from significant emotional and psychological symptoms, according to court records.

She suffered from “considerable psychological and physical symptoms, including panic attacks distinguished by sweating, shortness of breath, tremors and nausea; rapid mood swings; increased irritability; difficulty controlling anger; an inability to grieve; insomnia and recurring disturbing nightmares; and social withdrawal distinguished by total isolation from friends and family for days at a time,” records show.

As a result, she filed a claim for workers comp benefits for mental injuries and disability, according to records.

At a July 2014 hearing, the Missouri Department of Transportation's medical expert assigned Ms. Mantia a 2.5% disability rating, saying she suffered depressive disorder due to her employment and that it resulted in permanent partial disability, records show.

Ms. Mantia's medical expert agreed, testifying that her condition represented major depressive disorder and that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by her work, according to records. He assigned her a disability rating between 90% and 95%.

An administrative law judge with Missouri's Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, however, denied her claim for benefits since she failed to prove that she suffered “extraordinary and unusual work-related stress when compared to similarly-situated employees,” records show.

But the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission reversed the judge's decision, ruling that a 2005 amendment to the state's workers comp act made it so workers were not required to prove the “extraordinary and unusual” nature of their work, according to records.

Ms. Mantia was awarded benefits based on a 50% permanent partial disability, and the Missouri Department of Transportation was ordered to pay for any necessary future medical care to treat her mental injury, records show.

The Missouri Department of Transportation appealed, arguing that the commission's decision wasn't supported by sufficient competent substantial evidence, according to records.

On June 14, a three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, in St. Louis, affirmed the commission's decision, ruling that there was sufficient evidence to support the commission's finding that Ms. Mantia suffered 50% permanent partial disability of the whole body.

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