Aggressive Kentucky Bus Driver Denied Benefits for Injuries Sustained in Fight with Passenger

The Supreme Court of Kentucky, affirming a lower court’s decision denying workers’ compensation benefits to a bus driver who alleged that he sustained injuries in an altercation with a passenger, held that if a claimant’s aggressive or inflammatory behavior proximately causes violence, thus resulting in injury to the claimant, the claimant is not entitled to compensation under Kentucky’s workers’ compensation laws [Trevino v. Workers’ Compensation Bd. Transit Auth. of River City, 2019 Ky. LEXIS 122 (Mar. 14, 2019); see Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 8.01, et seq.].

Background

Trevino, a bus driver for a local transit authority, sustained injuries to his face and teeth, and alleged that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), resulting from an altercation with a passenger. Following a hearing, in which videotape footage of the incident was reviewed multiple times, the ALJ found that Trevino was the aggressor and that his claim was barred under Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 342,610(3), which generally bars recovery if the employee “willfully intended to injure or kill himself, herself, or another.” Ultimately the Board, and the Court of Appeals, determined that there was substantial evidence supporting the ALJ’s determination.

Driver Claimed the Incident Was an Incident of the Employment

Trevino claimed, inter alia, that under Kentucky case law, workplace assaults were compensable where they were traceable to an incident of the employment, even when the employee was the aggressor. The high court declined, however, to adopt what it called “Trevino’s strained interpretation” of KRS 342.610(3). Stressing that the Legislature’s intent was clear, the Court held that where a claimant’s aggressive or inflammatory behavior proximately causes violence, thus resulting in injury to the claimant, the claimant is not entitled to compensation under the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

The reviewing court could not substitute its findings for those of the appropriate finder of fact. The ALJ’s decision was supported by substantial evidence.

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