Eric Wind Attorney at NH Public Utilities Commission in Concord.

Supreme Court At-a-Glance Contributor Eric Wind, Attorney at the NH Public Utilities Commission in Concord, N.H.

No. 2020-0605

October 13, 2021

Affirmed.

 

  • Whether the Compensation Appeals Board (CAB) erred in awarding workers’ compensation benefits to the respondent, the decedent-employee’s estate, after the decedent committed suicide following a severe workplace accident?

 

The decedent was severely injured in a single vehicle accident which occurred when he was driving back from a work site in the Berlin area.  The decedent suffered from multiple head lacerations, a fractured neck, a concussion, a serious tear to his left rotator cuff and multiple fractured ribs.  The workers’ compensation carrier accepted the injuries arising out of the single vehicle car accident.  When the decedent later committed suicide, the workers’ compensation carrier terminated payment of the claim indicating that the decedent’s death was not causally related to the work injury and did not arise out of and in the course of his employment.  The CAB determined that there was an obvious cause and effect between the June 5 car accident and injuries and the suicide and that the decedent’s widow was entitled to death benefits.  The Court found that the decedent was a traveling employee and that his injuries arising out of the June 5 car accident involved risk directly associated with his employment and that his injuries arose in the course of his employment because the travel to and from Berlin was necessitated by and integral to the nature of the decedent’s employment such that the June 5 injuries occurred within the boundaries of time and space created by the terms of his employment.  The Court explained that the chain of causation test is the proper standard for determining the compensability of a death by suicide under New Hampshire’s Workers’ Compensation law.  The chain of causation tests provides that an employee’s death by suicide is compensable under RSA 281-A:26 if the claimant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the suicide resulted from a disturbance of mind of such severity as to override normal, rational judgment and that such disturbance of mind resulted from the employee’s work-related injury and its consequences.

 

Bernard & Merrill, of Manchester (Gary S. Harding on the brief and orally) for the petitioner.  Moaquin & Daley, of Manchester (Terrence J. Daley on the brief and orally) for the respondent.