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Workers' Compensation

Pennsylvania: Employee’s Suicide Was Compensable

A decision of Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board awarding death benefits to the surviving spouse and child of an employee who committed suicide was supported by substantial evidence in the record in spite of the fact that the suicide appeared to have been carefully planned and carried out, said a state appellate court. The court observed that the decedent had suffered a work-related lower back injury in June 2016, and had unsuccessfully attempted to return to work. He committed suicide in March 2017. The court noted further that the employee’s surviving spouse had removed OxyContin tablets from their home when she discovered that her husband had performed an Internet search to determine how many pills it would take to be fatal. Other evidence showed that, shortly before his death, the decedent had purchased the rope that he used to hang himself from a local building supply company. The surviving spouse produced expert medical evidence that her husband suffered a major depressive disorder and that it was linked to his being out of work. The medical professional opined that the decedent’s work-related back injury was the identified stressor that preceded the condition of major depression and suicide, and the work injury was a substantial contributing factor to Decedent’s suicide. That was sufficient to support the Board’s determination.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the co-Editor-in-Chief and Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law(LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance.

See SEPTA v. Workers’ Comp. Appeal Bd. (Hansell), 2021 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 471 (May 24, 2021)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 38.03, Digest, note 2.

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law

For a more detailed discussion of the case, see

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