Workers’ Compensation Claims Expected to Roll in After Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Shooting Earlier This Year

After a gunman killed nine employees, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority could face multiple workers' compensation claims.
By: | August 15, 2021

On May 26, 2021, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) became yet another landmark in the U.S. representing violence and despair.

A gunman entered the VTA early that May morning after setting fire to his own house as a means to distract first responders from the mayhem he was about to create.

The VTA itself consists of five buildings and employs nearly 2,000 employees. The gunman’s assault focused primarily in the maintenance yard during what has been described as the busiest time of the day — a shift change — and Building B, where a conference meeting was being held.

Nine VTA employees lost their lives. The perpetrator was a tenth casualty.

In the aftermath, authorities learned that the gunman was also an employee of the VTA, where he had worked as a mechanic since 2012.

The motive is not certain, but it is believed that “unfair work assignments” fueled the gunman’s actions. He was documented to have a pattern of insubordination and had gotten into verbal altercations with coworkers on numerous occasions as well.

Families of the victims did not sit idly by following the untimely deaths of their loved ones. As of July, many are looking for retribution in the form of workers’ compensation payments — and lawsuits are expected to arise.

The first of which came from the family of victim Timothy Romo, which filed a claim in June to the Workers Compensation Appeals Board, setting off what is likely to be a pattern among the families.

Romo’s wife was reported as saying some families are even looking into filing civil suits.

As the San Jose Spotlight reported, “Workers’ compensation generally limits the ability of employees or their families to bring civil suits against an employer. But families may sue the employer or claims adjustor if there is a denial of benefits or a dispute over payout.”

At this time, the Romo claim is the only one on the dockets, but a board meeting in July illustrated that VTA officials are anticipating litigation from the remaining eight families, according to the meeting’s agenda. The meeting itself was held in a closed session, so details of the discussion are not public.

It is yet to be seen if the families will be granted workers’ compensation pay.

Scorecard: This will be an on-going case to watch as the families decide their next steps and workers’ comp responds in turn.

Takeaway: Employee safety should not be seen as a privilege. Employers must put plans in motion to protect employees from injury, illness and workplace violence. &

Autumn Demberger is the content strategist at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance