You Be the Judge

Is Manager’s PTSD After Robbery Compensable?

A woman is injured and traumatized after chasing a thief into a parking lot, but did the event occur in the course of her employment?
By: | September 28, 2015

A manager at a Mattress Firm store in a mall stowed her purse under the manager’s desk near the front of the store, as she typically did. The manager had keys to all of the Mattress Firm stores in the region in her purse. Two women entered the store, and one asked for assistance in shopping for a mattress. The manager accompanied the woman in walking through the store showroom. The second woman remained near the store entrance, close to the manager’s desk. When the manager was at the far end of the store, the second woman took her purse from under the desk.

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The manager immediately realized that the second woman took her purse and quickly made her way to the store entrance. The manager also recognized the first woman as the thief in a prior incident in another store. The manager grabbed her purse as the second woman was leaving the store. The manager hung onto the purse as they entered the parking lot.

The women entered a waiting vehicle, and the manager lost contact with the purse. The manager reached through an open window of the vehicle to grab her purse. The second woman rolled up the widow onto the manager’s arm. The first woman drove the vehicle away while the manager’s arm was trapped. The manager was dragged through the parking lot and sustained injuries to her shoulders, legs, and arms. The manager was also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She sought workers’ compensation benefits for her injuries. Mattress Firm denied workers’ compensation benefits for the manager’s PTSD. The trial court held that the manager’s PTSD was compensable under the street risk doctrine, which states that the risks of the street are the risks of the employment, if the employment causes the worker’s use of the street. Mattress Firm appealed.

[poll id=”173″]

How the Court Ruled

The court explained that the manager’s injury occurred in the course of employment because the robbery occurred during normal business hours at a time when the manager was on duty and responsible for helping any customer who entered the store. Also, the parking lot outside the mall was considered part of Mattress Firm’s premises.

A is incorrect. The court found that the manager was indiscriminately exposed to the general public. The store was open to anyone who chose to walk through its doors. Also, the manager’s duties included greeting and assisting any person who came into the store.

C is incorrect. The court found that the manager acted immediately to retrieve her purse and remained on Mattress Firm’s premises throughout the entire episode. Also, she said her actions were motivated by her belief that her purse contained money and keys belonging to Mattress Firm.

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B is correct. In Mattress Firm, Inc., et al. v. Mudruk, No. W2014-01017-SC-R3-WC (Tenn. 08/24/15), the Tennessee Supreme Court held that the manager’s PTSD after the robbery was compensable. The injury arose out of the manager’s employment under the street risk doctrine.

Editor’s note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.

Christina Lumbreras is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]