What happens when an employee is injured in a mass shooting at work?
Workers’ compensation is a benefit program that provides funds to employees injured while on-the-job. If, for example, the injury is the result of another’s negligent or reckless action the worker may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. The worker may seek compensation through a Worker’s Compensation claim and a 3rd Party lawsuit against that individual. The value of the 3rd party claim is dependent on multiple factors applicable to each individual case.
What does Maryland state law say about workers’ compensation for mass shooting victims?
The case, Haissaun Mitchell, et al. v. Rite Aid of Maryland, Inc. et al., involved a mass shooting at Rite Aid after an employee became frustrated with co-workers. According to statements from the workers, the employee cut in front of line to punch in the timeclock to begin her shift. She became upset when other workers voiced frustration over her skipping ahead of the line. The worker then left, got a handgun, and returned. She opened fire on her co-workers, killing three and injuring three before taking her own life.
In this case, the shooter and victims were not employees of Rite Aid, but temporary employees. Their employer, Capstone Logistics, supplied workers to help at Rite Aid’s warehouse. Workers’ compensation claims were filed by the workers and Capstone provided workers’ compensation benefits to their workers.
The injured workers filed an additional civil lawsuit against Rite Aid. The possibility of coverage under both workers’ comp and a tort suit was a possibility if the victims could establish Rite Aid failed to in these two areas:
- Premises liability and security concerns.
- Negligent hiring.
If the workers could establish that the employer failed to provide adequate security or were negligent in hiring the shooter, they could build a successful civil suit. In this case, the court reviewed the evidence and found that Rite Aid had provided adequate security. They also discussed how the shooter passed standard screening measures. As a result, the court stated Rite Aid was not responsible for the shooter’s actions.
Although this case will provide some guidance in similar situations, the court was careful to note that the standards of care regarding safety will continue to evolve and employers could be liable in these types of accidents. The case also provides a good example of the interplay between workers’ compensation and tort lawsuits.