Love and Bullets for Valentines Day!

Lou Rosa took the patrol car and went straight to Mary Ann's place of work.  Inside the store, Lou asked to speak with John Brinker, whom he suspected of having a relationship with Mary Ann, saying "John, can I talk to you?"  As Brinker approached from around a partition wall in the showroom, Lou opened up on him – point blank.  Brinker died from gunshot wounds to his back and abdomen.

Rosa rampaged through the store to locate May Ann – finding her in a back room cowering with another co-employee.  Rosa shot Mary Ann – in the arm – wounding her.  Rosa ranted "You won't go out with me, but you'll go out with John . . . " and told Mary Ann that he had "been secretly taping her phone conversations" and knew she  was unfaithful to him. 

When the police finally responded to this awful scene a standoff ensued with a bleeding Mary Ann and her coworker held hostage and police wary of storming the back room with guns blazing.  Finally, Rosa turned the gun on himself, ending the stalemate.

May Ann filed a workers' compensation claim against the furniture store where she worked. 

First things first – the law: under the New York and the New Jersey Workers' Compensation laws an injury "must arise out of and in the course of" employment to be compensable.  "In the course of employment" refers to the time, place, and circumstances of the incident in relation to the employment. This also means that the workers' compensation statutes only extend to those injuries sustained within the scope of the employment.  "Arising out of the employment: refers to the causal origin of the incident – it requires an analysis of the risk which gave rise to the injury and whether such risk is contemplated as incident of employment. 

The workers' compensation Judge found that Mary Ann was entitled to benefits, because "the assailant chose the respondent's place of business because it was the only place of contact between Mary Ann and Brinker, and that, but for that employment and contact, there would not have been any shooting."  The employer wisely appealed, and the case was reversed.  The appellate court ruled that the shooting happened during the employment but did not arise from a risk "related to the employment" – the risk of being attacked by a deranged ex-boyfriend was personal to the employee and had nothing to do with furniture sales.   Mary Ann’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits was dismissed.  Also notable is both John Brinker's dependents and the co-worker held hostage did have viable workers' compensation claims – because their injuries were not related to any factor other than the employment.  (Case cite).

 
In New York, similar claims have been dismissed on like grounds.  Notable is the case of Police officer Brett Robinson, who was shot by his wife while on duty with his own service revolver!  According to witnesses, the couple "erupted into argument" while having lunch together.  Compensation benefits were denied, based on the "purely personal nature" of the dispute, despite the fact that Brett was on-duty and his service gun was the weapon used.  (Cite:  Robinson v. Village of Catskill Police Dept.617 N.Y.S.2d 975 (3rd Dep't 1994).)

Have any questions about this article?  Call Greg Lois at 973-500-8109 or email him.

Greg Lois is the managing partner of LOIS LLC and dedicates his practice to defending employers and carriers in New York and New Jersey workers' compensation claims. Greg is the author of a popular series of "Handbooks" on workers' compensation, and is the co-author of the 2016 & 2017 Lexis-Nexis New Jersey Workers' Compensation Practice Guide. Greg can be reached at 201-880-7213 or glois@loisllc.com