Benefits

No Workers’ Comp Benefits for Widow of Murdered Employee

By Staff Report

Oct. 11, 2010

The widow of a worker whose murder on his employer’s premises remains a mystery is not entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits, Tennessee’s Supreme Court ruled.

The Oct. 6 ruling in Ana R. Padilla vs. Twin City Fire Insurance Co. stems from the July 13, 2007, death of Jose Sanchez, a mill worker who generally began work each day long before other workers arrived at Xelica in Nashville, Tennessee, court records state.

The owner of the business found Sanchez that day shot to death. But with few clues, the unsolved murder eventually was turned over to a police department’s homicide cold-case unit.

Padilla sued for death benefits for herself and her daughter, presenting evidence that the shop was in a high-crime area. She argued that the only reasonable conclusion is that Sanchez was killed during a burglary and the assault was therefore connected to his job, court records show.

But a trial court concluded that there was not enough evidence to establish that burglary was a motive for the murder as nothing was taken from the premises and there was no sign of a forced entry. The court also concluded that there was no evidence the murder was related to Sanchez’s private life.

It therefore concluded the murder resulted from a “neutral assault.” The court also declined to apply Tennessee’s “street risk” doctrine, because the employer’s premises were not open to the public.

The street risk doctrine applies in cases where an employer exposes a worker to street hazards that could cause an injury, court records state.

The trial court dismissed Padilla’s complaint, and a Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel affirmed the trial court’s dismissal. The Supreme Court then agreed with the panel’s finding.

 Filed by Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

 

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