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Court upholds workers comp benefits for delivery driver diagnosed with PTSD

Court upholds workers comp benefits for delivery driver diagnosed with PTSD

A FedEx Corp. driver diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due in part to a new manager's demands and the stress of a particularly difficult day is due workers compensation benefits, the Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled.

The unanimous ruling earlier this week in William D. Hart v. Federal Express Corp. et al. upheld 47 weeks of temporarily total disability that had been awarded by the state's Workers' Compensation Review Board.

Mr. Hart, then 47 and having worked in and around Mystic, Connecticut, for FedEx since 1987, got a new manager, who greatly increased his workload and twice cited him for infractions, making Mr. Hart worry about his future employment, court records show.

On a hot September day in 2009 and already behind schedule due in part to being ordered to try to redeliver a package, whose recipient was again not there to receive the package — as well as no time for food or restroom breaks — Mr. Hart began to suffer heart palpitations known as atrial flutter, according to the ruling.

During a lengthy period of examinations, he was diagnosed with PTSD.

“There was generally agreement among the medical experts that, although the claimant's atrial fibrillation and arrhythmia likely pre-existed the events of Sept. 15, 2009, the physical stress, dehydration and psychological anxiety that he experienced on that day could have aggravated the condition and caused it to manifest,” the Connecticut high court said, noting that state law requires only that the workplace be proven as a “substantial” factor in determining workers comp eligibility.

Mr. Hart's employment was terminated in 2010.

While FedEx and third-party administrator Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. appealed the workers comp board decision, citing in part Mr. Hart's extensive physical fitness activities before and after his injury in demonstrating his ability to return to work, the state high court cited the long, hot, stressful workdays with no breaks that were at least a partial cause of the arrhythmia.

“We are skeptical of the defendants' suggestion that most Connecticut employers require similarly situated employees to labor under such conditions,” the state Supreme Court ruled in upholding the workers comp award.

“Although we respectfully disagree with the court's opinion, the litigation has concluded,” a FedEx spokesman said in an email. “Mr. Hart is no longer employed at FedEx, and we now consider the case closed.”

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