CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has ruled that a UPS driver’s post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from a hijacking is a compensable injury in the Workers’ Compensation system.
The court made the decision Oct. 25 in UPS’ appeal of a Board of Review decision in Jay Hannah’s case.
Hannah had his UPS truck hijacked by a man with a rifle on Aug. 11, 2010. The events of the hijacking are summarized by the court in the opinion as follows:
“The gunman fired a shot in the air near Mr. Hannah’s driver side door. He then threatened Mr. Hannah’s life and forced Mr. Hannah to drive him towards the police station. On the way to the police station, the gunman saw a police cruiser parked at a gas station and forced Mr. Hannah to pull over.
“The gunman then took the keys to the truck, stepped out of the passenger side door, and fired a shot at the ground. As the gunman was getting out of the truck, Mr. Hannah was able to escape and hide behind a nearby store. The gunman was subsequently fatally shot by law enforcement.”
According to a 2012 report in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, the hijacking occurred in Elizabeth by Joseph Dennis Harrison, who forced Hannah drive to the Wirt County state police detachment.
The opinion says Hannah saw a professional counselor after the incident and was diagnosed with PTSO. Hannah experienced sleep disturbances, nightmares, hyper-vigilance and depression, the opinion says.
He filed his Workers’ Compensation claim in October 2010, but a claims administrator denied it, claiming compensation for a psychiatric injury was barred.
After an appeal, the Office of Judges affirmed the administrator’s decision in February 2011. But nine months later, the Board of Review sided with Hannah.
“The Board of Review pointed to the physical nature of the incident,” the Supreme Court wrote.
“It found that Mr. Hannah was physically detained, that he was assaulted by the sound of gunfire and stripped of his keys. The Board of Review concluded that Mr. Hannah received a personal injury in the course of and resulting from his employment.
“We agree with the conclusion and reasoning of the Board of Review. Mr. Hannah’s claim for (PTSD) is not barred… because the condition was manifested by demonstrable physical symptoms, including sleep disturbances and jumpiness.”
The decision was a unanimous one.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at email@example.com.