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The survivors of a Nebraska woman who overdosed on drugs prescribed in connection with a workplace injury are not eligible for workers compensation survivor benefits, a state appeals court ruled.
The woman worked for Northfield Retirement Communities in Scott’s Bluff, Nebraska, when she was injured in 2009. In 2012, she was awarded continuing treatment for her injuries and subsequently prescribed the opioids oxycodone and methadone, along with the sedative Xanax — up to and including six days before her death on April 15, 2014.
According to court documents, several hours prior to her death she had been visited by a social worker and police officers, who sought to inform her that she was going to lose custody of her daughter. The woman had been living with relatives who told police that she could no longer stay there. Four hours later, paramedics were called to the scene, the woman later died in the hospital from an overdose, and a coroner ruled her death accidental.
When the family applied for survivor benefits, a Nebraska workers compensation court eventually denied their claim, ruling the woman’s death a suicide and saying she had been in a “fragile emotional state” and was overheard saying, “I just as well end it all.”
The trial court ruled that this constituted “willful negligence and thus barred any recovery of benefits,” according to court documents.
A three-judge panel of the Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling to dismiss the claim on Tuesday.
An Arkansas court ruled that workers compensation survivor benefits must be paid to a deceased worker's biological children, even though he had terminated his parental rights and the children were adopted.