Published on April 16, 2014

PERSONNEL MATTERS: Worker shot for reporting robbery wins comp case

By Sheena M. Harrison, Crain News Service

CHICAGO (April 16, 2014) — The Nebraska Supreme Court has ruled that a clothing store manager who was shot in retaliation for reporting a robbery should receive workers compensation benefits for psychological and physical injuries he suffered, as well as inpatient treatment for chemical dependency that worsened after the attack.

Matthew Kim was a manager for retail clothing store Gen-X Clothing Inc. in Omaha, Neb., court records show. The store was robbed in June 2011 while Mr. Kim was working.

The robbers later returned to the store at an unspecified time and shot Mr. Kim multiple times, records show. Court documents say the shooting was done in revenge after Mr. Kim reported the previous robbery at Gen-X, and that the perpetrators made several phone calls to Mr. Kim threatening him and his family.

Dependent vs. recreational drug user

Mr. Kim drank alcohol and was a recreational drug user prior to the shooting, court records show. A mental health practitioner examined Mr. Kim in September 2011 and diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chemical dependency that had begun to increase after Mr. Kim was shot.

Mr. Kim’s medical providers recommended inpatient treatment for Mr. Kim, fearing that he could not safely detoxify from his drug and alcohol use without experiencing significant or fatal withdrawal, records show. He was admitted for inpatient drug and alcohol treatment in February 2012.

Medical experts for Mr. Kim and Gen-X agreed that Mr. Kim’s drug use after his shooting was related to his PTSD diagnosis, and that inpatient treatment was appropriate, according to records.

However, a medical expert for Gen-X argued that Mr. Kim had reached maximum medical improvement after nine days of inpatient addiction treatment, and that Gen-X should not pay for continuing treatment, records show. The doctor argued that Mr. Kim was a lifelong drug abuser and that he was exaggerating his PTSD symptoms.

However, Nebraska’s Workers’ Compensation Court awarded Mr. Kim temporary total disability benefits of $400 a week and ordered Gen-X to pay $18,500 in medical bills for Mr. Kim, including $13,236 for inpatient addiction treatment, records show. The court also ordered Gen-X to pay for continuing medical and hospital services for Mr. Kim.

The case was appealed by Gen-X and its workers comp insurer, Farmers Insurance Group’s Truck Insurance Exchange, records show.

Shooting caused drug dependency—court

The Nebraska Supreme Court unanimously upheld Mr. Kim’s benefit awards on April 11. The court found that Mr. Kim’s inpatient addiction treatment was compensable because testimony showed that the shooting caused him to become a dependent drug user, rather than a recreational drug user.

Mr. Kim’s ongoing addiction treatment also was compensable because testimony showed that Mr. Kim had not reached maximum medical improvement at the unspecified time of the workers comp court trial, the high court ruled.

“At the time of trial, Kim was still seeking counseling services two to four times per month,” said the opinion, which called Mr. Kim’s addiction treatment “reasonably necessary.”

The high court also upheld TTD (Temporary Total Disability) benefits for Mr. Kim, as well as payment for an October 2011 emergency room visit in which Mr. Kim was treated for a panic attack after his shooting.

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This report appeared in Business Insurance magazine, a Chicago-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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