“Abnormal Working Condition” Addressed In Workers Compensation Decision

Date: January 25, 2010

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has addressed the issue of what constitutes an “abnormal working condition” for the purposes of establishing a work related mental injury. In McLaurin v. W.C.A.B. (SEPTA), the claimant was a SEPTA bus driver with a set route in West Philadelphia. One day, several hooded young men entered his bus without paying their fares. At the end of the bus route, one of these men approached McLaurin and pulled a gun. McLaurin pleaded with the gunman, who eventually put away his weapon and got off the bus. McLaurin then drove to the bus depot and told his supervisor what had happened. He was unable to work the next day nor any other days after that. He then filed a claim petition seeking workers compensation benefits alleging that he suffered work-related post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and angina as a result of the bus incident. The Commonwealth Court has held that Mr. McLaurin did not experience an “abnormal working condition” which he would need to establish to meet his burden of proof in establishing a psychiatric injury. The Court noted that the record contained substantial evidence which showed that life-threatening situations had occurred to its employees “with sufficient frequency that methods of dealing with dangerous passengers were built into employees’ training, and that the bus driver could have thus anticipated his assault”.

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.