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Workers' compensation case features two unusual components

A recent workers' compensation case involved two situations that are rarely a part of those lawsuits. First, the case went all the way to state's highest court, whereas as many workers' compensation cases are resolved at the administrative hearing level. Second, the argument against paying benefits to the worker included an assertion that the accident was actually a suicide attempt to avoid being charged in a homicide case.

The case began in 2010 when the man was working for an electric power association. He was working a bucket-lift truck when he was shocked by power lines. He lost both of his hands in the workplace accident.

Court records showed that no one working with the man when the incident occurred could testify that they saw him grab the lines on purpose. The worker’s explanation was that he became entangled in the wires when he bent down to pick up a knife he had dropped.  

But other than the theory of attempting to evade pending murder or manslaughter charges, additional arguments were voiced against the worker. His employer said that the worker had been called in a for a drug test the day the incident occurred and coworkers said he had been acting differently before the incident occurred. An expert for the company even testified that due to the distance between the two power lines, it would have been difficult for the worker to accidentally touch both at once.

The state Supreme Court eventually ruled that the worker was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. But he is now in prison for 12 years after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the homicide case. 

Other than the unusual circumstances of the case, it is a good example for Minnesota residents of how a claim for workers’ compensation benefits can be rejected at several levels of the process and still ultimately lead to an approval. Workers’ compensation appeals are not easy, however, and those who are fighting for benefits may be wise to seek legal representation.

Source: ClarionLedger.com, “Prisoner can get workers’ comp, Miss. justices rule,” Jack Elliott, Jr., April 4, 2014

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