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A longshoreman who accidentally struck and killed a co-worker with the forklift he was operating is entitled to receive disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, a federal court ruled.
Samuel Jackson, an employee of Portsmouth, Virginia-based Ceres Marine Terminals Inc., was operating a forklift on a Portsmouth pier in March 2011 when he veered to avoid being hit by a truck and accidentally ran over Paula Bellamy, who was working as a spotter. Mr. Jackson immediately attempted to help Ms. Bellamy, who suffered gruesome injuries, and he remained within 15 feet of the scene while emergency responders tended to her, according a ruling issued Jan. 27 by the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Following the accident, Mr. Jackson sought medical attention and was diagnosed with PTSD, a condition for which Ceres voluntarily paid him temporary total disability benefits for nearly two years.
In December 2012, CMT requested an independent medical examination of Mr. Jackson. The examiner ruled out a diagnosis of PTSD because Mr. Jackson did not experience a threat to himself and was never in danger during the accident. Based on that report, Ceres terminated payments to Mr. Jackson, according to court records.
Mr. Jackson filed a claim for disability benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, a federal workers compensation statute for longshoremen and harbor workers who are not covered by state comp statutes. Ceres disputed the claim.
An administrative law judge ultimately found that Mr. Jackson did suffer from PTSD related to the accident and was entitled to disability and medical benefits under Longshore act. The U.S. Department of Labor benefits review board upheld the judge’s decision upon an appeal by Ceres.
Ceres petitioned the 4th Circuit to review the decision, saying Mr. Jackson was not entitled to disability benefits under the Longshore act because he was not working in a zone of danger and therefore did not suffer a compensable injury. The company cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1994 decision in Consolidated Rail Corp. vs. Gottshall, which specifies that a worker may receive benefits for an emotional injury caused by fear of physical injury to himself, according to the ruling.
A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit upheld the Labor Department ruling, finding that the administrative law judge’s decision that Mr. Jackson “suffered a work-related psychological injury (was) amply supported by substantial evidence.”
The owner of a commercial fishing vessel must pay for lodging, food and medical expenses for a ship crew member who suffers from long-term anemia after a 2008 accident on the boat, even though his condition may have been related to his prior hepatitis C diagnosis, a federal appeals court has ruled.