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S.D. workers comp ruling disputed in case of woman killed by husband


HSBC Card Services Inc. should pay workers compensation benefits to the surviving children of a mother killed in her employer's parking lot by her husband, attorneys argued before South Dakota's Supreme Court.

The husband, who shot and killed Julie Tassler the day after he was served with divorce papers in 2008, also killed himself. Ms. Tassler had gone to her car for a smoke break when she was killed, according to court records.

An administrative law judge concluded that Ms. Tassler's death did not arise from her employment and was not compensable. He granted the employer's request for summary judgment, and a circuit court affirmed.


But on Wednesday, Dean Nasser, an attorney at Nasser Law Offices in Sioux Falls, S.D., representing Ronald Voeller — Ms. Tassler's father and estate representative — argued that “but for” Ms. Tassler being at work that day, she would not have been killed.

Mr. Nasser told the court in the case of Ronald Voeller v. HSBC Card Services Inc. that the husband would not have killed Ms. Tassler in front of their two children, and the only place he was assured he could find her without them present was at her workplace because she always was with the children otherwise.

Ms. Tassler's death arose out of her employment, and proving that does not require “an active causation” linked to her work, the attorney argued.

The workplace contribution to the case at hand “was more passive than it was active,” Mr. Nasser said. But work did “facilitate” her death because smokers were expected by HSBC to smoke in the parking lot, where her husband knew he could find her without their children, the attorney argued. Her work conditions “constrained” her and gave her husband the only opportunity he had to kill her without the children present, he said.

But an attorney for the employer argued that the murder did not arise from Ms. Tassler's employment and the lower court's ruling granting HSBC summary judgment should be upheld.

“Simply providing a place where Steven Tassler could carry out his murder is not a sufficient causal connection to establish that the employment engendered, exacerbated, facilitated or contributed to the assault,” said Eric D. DeNure, an attorney at May & Johnson P.C. in Sioux Falls, S.D.