Montgomery & Bucks County Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Monday, November 23, 2015

Workers’ Compensation Denied to Mom Paid to Care for Disabled Son

Can someone receive workers’ comp if they are paid by the state to care for a relative?

Some workers’ compensation cases are clear-cut -- A person is injured while clearly on the job and within the scope of his or her employment and, therefore, benefits should be awarded.  Unfortunately, not all cases are this simple. Take, for example, the case of a Pennsylvania mom who was stabbed while caring for her disabled son.

Laura O’Rourke cared for her 33-year-old son, Joshua Gartland, who was known to suffer from substance abuse issues and one of whose legs had been amputated. O’Rourke was paid to care for her son pursuant to an agreement with the state of Pennsylvania. An argument broke out between the two when O’Rourke delayed in fixing Gartland something to eat. Later that evening, Gartland went into O’Rourke’s bedroom, stabbed her repeatedly in the chest and slashed her throat. O’Rourke’s husband, who was also in the room at the time, was able to prevent Gartland from killing his mother. 

After the attack, O’Rourke, who was now out of work, applied to the state for workers’ compensation benefits. After an appeal, a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court awarded her $466 a month. After the award, Gartland challenged the decision from prison and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that O’Rourke was not eligible for benefits. Although O’Rourke argued that she was required by the contract to reside in a home with her son, the court disagreed.  As such, the court found that the attack was not work-related and that benefits should be denied.

When applying for Workers' Compensation benefits, it is always wise to have the assistance of a skilled attorney who specializes in such cases.

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