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Nebraska: Injured Employee’s Suicide Held to Be Willful Negligence Barring Recovery of Death Benefits

February 10, 2017 (1 min read)

A Nebraska compensation court did not clearly err in determining that an injured employee’s death was the result of suicide, where evidence indicated that the employee had been distraught for several days prior to her death—she had been evicted and advised that she would likely lose custody of her daughter, and medical evidence and an autopsy indicated she had ingested lethal amounts of opioids (oxycodone and methadone), along with the sedative Xanax. The court noted that during the afternoon prior to her death, the employee indicated that she was “at her end,” and at another moment uttered, “I just as well end it all.” The appellate court acknowledged that in Nebraska, where a cause of death was in issue and there was nothing to show how death was caused, there was a negative presumption against suicide. Here, however, the presumption was overcome and the burden, therefore, shifted back to the family to show that the death was accidental. Evidence supported a finding that the overdose was intentional and that the employee’s death was caused by the sort of willful negligence that barred recovery.

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

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance.

See Michael B. v. Northfield Retirement Communities, 24 Neb. App. 504 2017 Neb. App. LEXIS 32, (Feb. 7, 2017)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 38.01.

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

 For a more detailed discussion of the case, see