Armed Robbery Abnormal? Not Under PA Workers’ Comp!

As followers of our blog are aware, we filed a workers’ compensation case on behalf of a PA liquor store clerk who was the victim of an armed robbery (and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result). We were successful before the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ), and the matter is currently pending before the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB). Though we, of course, follow all PA court decisions in the workers’ comp area, we have a particular interest in those dealing with this issue.

Yesterday, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania issued a decision in the matter of PA Liquor Control Board v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Kochanowicz). In what can only be described as a staggeringly repulsive decision, the Court reversed both the WCJ and WCAB, who both found that the claimant in that case suffered PTSD as a result of an armed robbery, and that the armed robbery was an “abnormal working condition.” Both the injured worker’s treating doctor, and the Independent Medical Examiner (IME)[Who often is anything but “independent”], found that the injured worker suffered PTSD as a result of the armed robbery.

In its infinite wisdom, the Court found that armed robberies at liquor stores in Pennsylvania are common; perhaps, if we are understanding their logic correctly, an armed robbery at a liquor store these days is akin to taking out the trash. Just another part of a clerk’s daily routine.

Examining this conclusion logically is appalling. One State agency, the Court system, is noting that another State agency (PA Liquor Control Board) is so incompetent that entering a liquor store in Pennsylvania is essentially risking one’s life. It would seem the signs in front of the PA liquor stores should immediately be changed to read, “CAUTION – IT IS PERFECTLY NORMAL FOR ARMED BANDITS TO ENTER THIS STORE AT ALL TIMES.” Moreover, under this result, the injured worker is disabled from work, a fact both medical experts agreed upon, and he receives no income whatsoever. How is that remotely fair?

Of course, since we do live in a civilized society, and the old west remains in the past, there was a minority voice of reason on the Court. Three of the Judges on the Court dissented, and made arguments that made perfect sense. We are hopeful that a request for appeal (known as allocator) will be made to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and that this grave injustice will be rectified by the Supreme Court. We also encourage the public to contact their Pennsylvania elected officials, Representatives and Senators, to have the PA Workers’ Compensation Act changed, so people who are injured while working are properly protected in this circumstance. Just for common decency, this must be fixed.