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Workers' Compensation

New Hampshire: High Court Says “Chain-of-Causation” Rule Applies to Suicide Claims

The Supreme Court of New Hampshire, in a case of first impression, held that the appropriate test to gauge the compensability of suicide claims should be the so-called “chain-of-causation.” In its ruling, the Court affirmed a ruling by the state’s Compensation Appeals Board that had denied death benefits to the widow of a worker who sustained a work-related injury and had to deal with excruciating pain during a prolonged recovery. The worker left his wife a note indicating he couldn’t continue to deal with his current situation and the future that he thought looked bleak. Construing RSA 281-A:2.XI, which bars benefits if the decedent’s death resulted from a “willful intention to injure himself,” the court said that under some circumstances, a suicide could be compensable since the employer remained liable for subsequent injuries that were the “direct and natural result” of a prior, work-related injury. The Court indicated that it was joining the majority of jurisdictions that applied the “chain-of-causation” test. Applying that test, the Appeals Board had not erred in awarding benefits to the decedent’s widow.

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 Appeal of Pelmac Indus., 2021 N.H. LEXIS 154 (Oct. 13, 2021)

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

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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