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A sheriff’s deputy who had a gun aimed at him, who in turn with his partner was able to kill the gunman, is eligible for workers compensation for his post-traumatic stress disorder, an appeals court in Arizona ruled Tuesday.
The decision overturned an earlier decision by the Industrial Commission of Arizona that denied the Gila County Sheriff's Office deputy workers comp benefits after deeming his experience in the June 2017 shooting within the parameters of his expected job duties, according to No. 1 CA-IC 18-0047, filed in Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division One in Phoenix.
The appeals court, in its decision to “set aside” that of the commission, focused on the nature of the stress: “The issue to be resolved here, where the confrontation that precipitated (the deputy’s) PTSD was undoubtedly work-related, was not whether the event itself was ‘unexpected, unusual or extraordinary,’ but whether the stress (he) was exposed to as a result of his employment was ‘unexpected, unusual or extraordinary.’”
The appeals court wrote that “the distinction, however subtle, has meaning,” adding, “an event — such as the dispatch of a law enforcement officer to investigate a report of threatened violence — may be routine. The stress of the event — which here included staring down the barrel of a loaded shotgun held by a screaming manic gunman, careful repositioning to avoid injury to a fellow officer, and shooting and killing another human being at point-blank range — may not be.”
The earlier ruling, which affirmed that of an administrative law judge, focused upon the nature of the event, rather than the nature of the stress, the appeals ruling states. “This was error, and the… decision and award must be set aside.”
“We do not suggest that every situation in which a law enforcement officer draws a weapon or uses deadly force will result in a compensable claim; a causal connection between the employment-related event and the alleged mental injury must also be established,” the court wrote.
The Idaho Senate unanimously voted to remove a sunset provision from the post-traumatic stress disorder law it passed last February.