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6. Off-duty cops denied comp for Las Vegas shooting claims

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The mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas was tragic for many reasons, including that some of the heroic first responders rushing headfirst into danger may not be eligible for workers compensation to cover their physical and mental injuries.

On Oct. 1, a gunman fired into the crowd from the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 59 people and wounding 546, according to reports.

Four off-duty sheriff’s deputies employed by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in California filed workers comp claims after suffering injuries while responding to the shooting, but their claims were denied. An article about the case was the sixth most read Workers Compensation story on BI’s website in 2017.

At the heart of the matter is an interpretation of California’s labor code that states municipalities are required to cover workers comp claims that arise when an off-duty officer engages “in the protection or preservation of life or property, or the preservation of the peace anywhere in this state” even if the officer is “not at the time acting under the immediate direction of (the) employer.”

Advocates for the injured officers contend that the lack of specific reference to out-of-state tragedies in the labor code means incidents that occur outside of California are not automatically excluded from comp coverage. The issue is ultimately likely to be decided by the courts.

Also, to be decided in court are lawsuits filed by hundreds of victims of the mass shooting against the operators of the hotel from which the gunman fired, the organizers of the country music festival he targeted and the killer’s estate. The largest of the lawsuits was filed on behalf of 450 people who were either injured in or witnessed the shooting, while others were brought by families of people who were killed or severely injured.

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