A workers’ compensation claim on behalf of a Missouri police officer argued that the stress that he suffered on the job amounted to an occupational disease. The administrative law judge and the Labor and Industrial Relations Board (LIRB), however, disagreed.
Police Officer Dies from Heart Condition
The claim was filed on the officer’s behalf by his wife. The police officer in St. Louis and Richmond Heights from 1967 to 2014. He first started having heart issues in 1977. In the 1990s, they became frequent and more severe. In 2014, he had a ventricular tachycardia, his heart stopped, and he died.
The officer’s wife filed a workers’ compensation claim for survivor benefits. She claimed that her husband’s death from heart disease was caused by stress which, she argued, was an occupational disease for a police officer.
LIRB: Stress is Not Inherently an Occupational Disease for Cops
For workers’ compensation purposes in Missouri, occupational diseases are defined by Missouri Statute 287.067. However, there’s a special subsection in the law for professional firefighters and police officers. 287.067(6) explicitly states that the following conditions are occupational diseases, if a direct causal relationship to the job is established:
- Lung disease
- Disease of the respiratory tract
- Heart disease, including carcinoma
- Psychological stress
Apparently because there was little to establish a “direct causal relationship” between the police officer’s heart events and particular stressors on the job, the workers’ compensation claim argued that his general psychological stress led to the heart disease and his death.
The administrative law judge, though, noted that there was only one mention of stress on the job in the officer’s treatment records. None of the treating doctors recommended that the officer retire or found that police work was too stressful for his heart condition.
To make matters worse, there were several other, non-workplace stressors that were mentioned in the treatment records: The officer’s wife struggled with miscarriages and cancer, and there were issues with his son. These stressful situations outside of the workplace cut against the causal relationship needed to show that the stress came from work.
In the end, the administrative law judge denied the claim. It failed to show that the particular officer suffered job-related stress. If this type of evidence was not necessary, “every firefighter and police officer [would] make a make a claim for job-related stress… If being a police officer in and of itself was enough to make a claim for stress that is how the statute would be written.”
Workers’ Compensation Lawyer at the Smith Law Office
Proving the direct causal relationship between an occupational disease and the job duties is one of the most challenging aspects of filing a workers’ compensation claim. The personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office can help. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373 if you or a loved one has been hurt on the job in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, or the rest of western Missouri.