Petrillo & Goldberg Law Blog

Workers’ compensation system complexity highlighted in Pennsylvania check-cashing case

The workers’ compensation legal systems in most states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are complex. And a high-profile example of why workers’ compensation is so complex was revisited on February 20, when a seven-judge panel of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ordered the state Appeal Board to reconsider the twice-denied claim of a woman who went through a harrowing ordeal at the check-cashing business where she worked.

Pamela Murphy’s original claim arose out of an incident in June 2010. An armed man accosted her and her husband in the parking lot of Ace Check Cashing, Inc., in Levittown, Pennsylvania, where she was the store manager at the time. The robber handcuffed and tied up Murphy’s husband, left him in the family’s parked car, and forced Murphy to unlock doors and deactivate alarms at the check cashing firm, ultimately giving the robber access to the firm’s cash vault. At various points, the robber pointed a gun at or threatened to kill Murphy or her husband.

Once the robber obtained possession of the firm’s cash, he hog-tied Murphy and abandoned her. Murphy managed to free herself and call 911 on her cell phone. 

After her experience, Murphy contacted the company’s president to inform him of the robbery; she was also taken to the hospital, experiencing chest pains as well as difficulty breathing and speaking. Murphy’s treatment included care for injuries to her back and shoulders as well as medication for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Murphy stated that she has nightmares, panic attacks and difficulty concentrating. She suffers from a fear of returning to work as well as the belief that the gunman may find her at home. She added that her bout with PTSD was compounded by the fact that her son-in-law was killed six years before her experience while working as a courier for the same business.

Murphy lost her workers’ compensation claim before a workers’ compensation judge and then an appeals board. In denying her claim, both stated that Murphy’s physical injuries were unrelated to the incident. The judge and appeal board both accepted the fact that Murphy suffered from PTSD, but they said that her employer’s training and security measures were proof that robberies were not an abnormal working condition at her place of employment.

While upholding the opinion regarding Murphy’s physical injuries, the Commonwealth Court ordered that her claim be re-examined concerning the mental harm she sustained. The court pointed to a previous case in which a state trooper’s workers’ compensation claim was ultimately upheld after contention. In that case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the trooper had a valid basis for filing a claim due to PTSD caused by a mentally disturbed individual who was struck and killed after running in front of the state trooper’s car for no apparent reason.

An individual with a workers’ compensation claim in litigation should always seek representation from a law firm specializing in workers’ compensation law to help them through the complex process.