Recently, a South Carolina Deputy Sheriff was denied Workers’ Compensation coverage for the depression and post traumatic stress disorder that he experienced after shooting and killing a suspect who attempted to assault him while he was investigating a neighborhood disturbance.
The case was denied at all levels, ultimately by the South Carolina Supreme Court in a 3-2 decision. The law in South Carolina allows psychological injuries to be covered under the state’s Workers’ Compensation system upon a showing that the psychological condition is a result of “extraordinary and unusual” conditions of employment, although the majority of the Supreme Court ruled that shooting and killing a human being is not “extraordinary and unusual” for a deputy sheriff in South Carolina. To their credit, the court intimated that the laws limiting coverage for psychological injuries are antiquated and urged the legislature to revisit the provisions for coverage. The Supreme Court’s opinion can be seen at http://m.sccourts.org/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27140.pdf.
Would the result have been different in Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation system? The answer is unclear. However, what is clear is that Ohio’s standard of proof for coverage of psychological conditions is even more limiting than South Carolina’s.
In Ohio, the law denies coverage for psychological conditions except where said condition harm “arisen from an injury or an occupational disease sustained” or from “sexual conduct in which the claimant was forced by threat of physical harm to engage or participate”. ORC 4123.01(C)(1).
In 1986, the Ohio Supreme Court decided Ryan V. Connor and in that case ruled that injuries resulting from stress on the job were only compensable in Ohio if the stress was “unusual” and only then if the unusual stress resulted in a physical condition.
So, would the deputy in Ohio receive coverage for his work related depression and post traumtic stress? It’s doubtful.
Once again, it is time for the General Assembly to recognize that in 2012, it is widely acknowledged that psychological injuries are just as disabling as physical injuries and to allow coverage upon a showing of an emotional condition arising from on the job injury.