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Appeal board rules fatal workplace stabbing compensable

Appeal board rules fatal workplace stabbing compensable

The wife and biological children of a man who was stabbed to death at a food processing plant by a coworker are eligible for workers compensation death benefits because the employer failed to prove the incident was not work-related, a Pennsylvania court ruled on Friday.

In February 2015, Danny Vasquez was fatally stabbed by Peter Atem, who was criminally charged in the incident that led Mr. Vasquez’s widow to file for survivor benefits — which the employer JBS USA Holdings Inc. denied, claiming that the murder was related to a “personal animus” and not work-related, according to documents in JBS Holdings USA Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, filed in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

In ruling in favor of the widow and three “dependent” children, a workers compensation judge said Mr. Atem showed signs of being “emotionally unstable” and ruled that “there was no evidence of record, either before this court or during the criminal proceedings, that there was any personal animosity between Mr. Atem and Decedent. In fact … Employer's own witnesses testified that Mr. Atem and Decedent appeared to work well, were observed laughing and joking and often helped each other during the course of a workday,” according to documents.

A workers compensation appeal board affirmed that ruling, in part, by granting death benefits, but gave the employer reprieve from providing benefits to one of the dependent children, of whom Mr. Vasquez was not the biological father. The board said there wasn’t sufficient proof that Mr. Vasquez “intended to function” as the child’s father, according to documents.

On appeal, the state court affirmed the board’s ruling, stating the employer failed to prove the incident was not related to work.