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The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed the denial of workers compensation benefits to a bus driver injured in an assault after it was determined the driver was the aggressor in the altercation.
In a unanimous decision Thursday, the high court held that an appellate court did not err in affirming the state’s Workers Compensation Board’s denial of the driver’s request for workers comp.
On Nov. 9, 2013, bus driver Douglas Wayne Trevino sustained injuries to his face and teeth, and later said he developed post-traumatic stress disorder, after he was assaulted by a passenger while operating a bus for the Transit Authority of River City in Louisville, Kentucky. He filed a claim for workers compensation with TARC and was denied.
TARC argued that Mr. Trevino was the aggressor in the altercation, and that since he was acting outside the scope of his employment, he was not entitled to compensation. At the benefits review conference, TARC presented the on-board bus surveillance video. The administrative law judge found that Mr. Trevino’s alleged actions of shoving the assailant down the bus steps and the verbal altercation between the two were “precipitating factors leading to the violent response.” He appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which rejected Mr. Trevino’s interpretation of the event and affirmed the ALJ’s decision.
Although Mr. Trevino argued that Kentucky statutes did not preclude the ability to receive compensation in assault cases in which the claimant was the aggressor, the Supreme Court of Kentucky disagreed, agreeing with the ALJ that Mr. Trevino’s actions “were indeed intentional and deliberate and were designed to inflict harm on this assailant." The court held that the ALJ did not err in denying Mr. Trevino’s self-defense claim and that it was his own actions that caused the escalation to the assault.
The court further held that the legislature clearly intended in its statutes to deny workers compensation to claimants if their “aggressive or inflammatory behavior proximately causes violence.”
TARC did not immediately respond to calls for comment and TARC’s attorney declined to comment on the decision.
Mr. Trevino’s attorney, Phillipe Rich of Louisville, said he disagreed with the court’s interpretation of the statute.
“The way they’re interpreting it, if you’re the aggressor, you don’t get workers comp,” he said. “The statute can’t mean that, or policemen, bouncers … any injury they have can’t be compensable the way they’re interpreting the statute.”
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