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Death threat does not warrant workers compensation benefits: Court

Death threat does not warrant workers compensation benefits: Court

It's highly unusual for a supervisor to threaten to kill an employee, but that is not enough to award a police officer workers compensation benefits, a Louisiana appeals court ruled.

The Louisiana 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruling in Troy Franklin v. Slidell Police Department affirmed a workers comp judge's December 2011 dismissal of a former police department correction officer's claim seeking benefits for a mental injury caused by mental stress.

Mr. Franklin claimed that he suffered from post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression after a police department captain walked into a booking room where he was working and announced in front of witnesses that he was feeling suicidal and prepared to “take some other folks with him,” according to the opinion.

“Speaking directly to Franklin, (the captain) said he would be first on the list,” the opinion states.

The city of Slidell, La., denied Mr. Franklin's claim, arguing that Mr. Franklin and the captain had ongoing personal and professional conflicts that resulted in verbal altercations before the death threat and that the two continued working together until Mr. Franklin voluntarily left his employment and filed his workers comp claim nine months after the incident.

The workers comp judge found that Mr. Franklin proved that the death threat constituted a sudden, unexpected and extraordinary stress related to his employment, which is a requirement for rewarding benefits. But the judge dismissed Mr. Franklin's claim because he didn't prove his mental injury resulted from that single incident.

On Monday, the appeals court affirmed.

“Every workplace has its share of employment-related stress,” the appeals court said. “Yet it is highly unusual and extraordinary for a supervisor to threaten to kill an employee.”

But the appeals court also found that the workers compensation judge was correct in ruling that “the record did not support by clear and convincing evidence the conclusion that Franklin's mental injury was the result of that (specific) sudden, unexpected and extraordinary stress.”