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The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a sheriff’s deputy is entitled to a presumption that his post-traumatic stress disorder is an occupational disease since he presented a diagnosis of PTSD, even though his employer offered a competing diagnosis.
The Carlton County deputy witnessed several deadly incidents in his career and following the suicide of his partner he began seeing a clinical counselor and took almost two years off for treatment, according to No. A22-0090.
In 2019 he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder and anxiety disorder. A psychologist said he was not fit for duty as a law-enforcement officer and was incapable of work in any capacity.
Upon telling his supervisors about his diagnosis the deputy was placed on leave, and the county filed a report of injury with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. The county’s insurer, Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust, denied liability and arranged for a second psychological evaluation, which led to a diagnosis of a major depressive disorder unrelated to his employment, according to records.
A workers compensation judge denied benefits, finding the second physician’s report “more persuasive” because the deputy’s symptoms “best fit a diagnosis of major depressive disorder,” rather than PTSD.
The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, ruling that MCIT failed to rebut the presumption that the deputy’s diagnosis was a compensable occupational disease.
The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed, stating in its Dec. 21 ruling that the statutory requirement of “a diagnosis” requires that an employee satisfies their burden by presenting exactly that — a diagnosis by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist identifying their disease as PTSD.
“Nothing in the statute suggests that a compensation judge needs to specifically determine that an employee's PTSD diagnosis is more credible than any competing diagnoses before the presumption applies,” the court said.
WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.