minnesota 39119 640

Do You Know the Rule? Minn. ‘Assault’ Exception

05 Apr, 2023 Chris Parker

minnesota 39119 640
                               

Minneapolis, MN (WorkersCompensation.com) -- If a third party holds a personal grudge against an employee that is unrelated to the employee’s job, and deliberately assaults him at work, the victim is likely out of luck when it comes to securing workers’ compensation benefits for his injuries, no matter how severe.
In Minnesota, workers' compensation benefits are to be awarded "in every case of personal injury or death of an employee arising out of and in the course of employment.” Minn. Stat. § 176.021.

But what if an employee is assaulted at work? Is that a “personal injury?” Can the employee secure benefits for his injuries? That depends.

The Assault Exception

The statute provides that a “personal injury” within the meaning of the state’s workers’ compensation act does not include an injury caused by the act of a third person or fellow employee which is:

Intended to injure the employee because of personal reasons; and
Not directed against the employee as an employee, or because of the employment.

This is the “assault” exception under the WCA. It does not, of course, mean that an employer is off the hook for every assault committed by a third person. In fact, the statute results in three categories of assault claims, two of which are compensable:
Non-compensable: The assailant was motivated by personal animosity toward his victim, arising from circumstances wholly unconnected with the victim’s employment.
Compensable: The provocation or motivation for the assault arises solely out of the activity of the victim as an employee.
Compensable: The assault was neither directed against the victim as an employee nor for reasons personal to the employee.
Attackers with Mental Illness

The assault exception requires that the attacker had a conscious and deliberate intent to injure the worker. But there is no carve-out for individual attackers who suffer from a psychiatric condition, even if that condition causes them to attack the employee. The fact that the attacker is mentally ill, or suffering under a pathological delusion that the victimized worker has somehow wronged him, does not render the injuries compensable.

Further, the WCA does not require a court to evaluate the effect of mental illness on an assailant if the attacker intended to injure the victim for personal reasons. “The assault exception does not require a specific level of rationality, but rather the assailant must consciously and deliberately act to injure the employee for personal reasons,” the Minnesota Supreme Court held in Profit v. HRT Holdings, No. 22-35240 (Minnesota 03/29/23).

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