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Workplace violence and Maryland Workers’ Compensation

Such injuries may be covered if they occur in the course of employment.

An act of workplace violence in October 2017 shook Marylanders in the Baltimore area. Covered widely in the local news media, the incident involved an employee at an Edgewood countertop installer who opened fire on his colleagues at work, leaving three dead and two injured.

While the first natural thought is of the criminal liability of the perpetrator, this kind of incident also raises questions of Workers’ Compensation liability. Most commonly, when people think of typical Workers’ Compensation claims, we think of injuries like those involving dangerous manufacturing equipment, slippery restaurant floors, long hours doing keyboarding or dangerous dust in the workplace.

What about employees like those in the Edgewood case who sustain injuries from the violent behavior of others at work? Similarly, what about Workers’ Compensation death benefits for the surviving loved ones of someone killed in such an incident?

Maryland law provides for coverage in these kinds of cases.

Third-person acts

In Maryland, a worker is eligible for Workers’ Compensation for “accidental personal injury” and that includes injury from a “willful or negligent act of a third person directed against a covered employee in the course of the employment of the covered employee.”

Maryland case law explains that this provision only requires that the victim be in the course of employment, but not that the incident “arise out of” employment. For example, in one case, a surviving dependent child was eligible for death benefits after her mother was shot in the parking lot of the nursing home where she worked by an ex-boyfriend. The mother was in the course of employment and it did not matter that the act of the third party was unconnected with the job.

In another case (which has been disputed), the court went the other way. A man got into a dispute in the workplace with a colleague. The colleague called a friend, who came to the worksite. Together, the two followed the victim 13 miles home from work in a high-speed car chase, shooting him in his driveway. The court found that the attack did not occur in the course of employment.

While the claimant pointed out that the dispute began at work so the shooting should be in the course of employment, the court disagreed, noting:

  • Even though the statute does not use the word “occur” as part of “in the course of employment,” the injury had to “occur” in the course of employment.
  • The “time, place and circumstances” of the aggressive act were not sufficiently linked to the “range of dangers associated with his employment.”
  • The going-and-coming rule applied, referring to the rule that injuries that happen in a commute to or from work are not covered.

Consult an attorney

The bottom line is that these cases are very factually specific and anyone facing a Workers’ Compensation claim involving an injury or death from negligence or aggression of a third party should seek the advice and assistance of an experienced lawyer.

The attorneys at the Maryland law firm of Cohen, Snyder, Eisenberg & Katzenberg, P.A., with six offices throughout the state, represent injured and ill employees in their Workers’ Compensation claims and appeals statewide.

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