(CN) – A Virginia UPS worker who came upon a grisly murder scene is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for his post-traumatic stress disorder, the state appeals court ruled.
Kirk Prince had worked as a delivery driver for 12 years when he arrived at the house of 65-year-old Barbara Fassett in January 2013.
Prince found Fassett on the ground with a fatal gunshot wound to her face in a “really, really gruesome scene.
“I thought she had passed out. I proceeded to look inside at her, and she had been shot several times,” Prince testified.
He explained that he called 911 but did not perform CPR, fearing that the perpetrator could still be in the house.
Prince said he started crying and that he vomited while waiting for EMS to arrive. He added that he felt worse when he learned that Fassett’s 42-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, had also been killed inside the house.
Police arrested Elizabeth’s ex-boyfriend, Herbert C. Bland, Jr., according to a local news report. Bland is also suspected of killing his father, Herbert Sr., according to another local report .
Prince filed for workers’ compensation for his PTSD one month later. Prince also testified that he had developed a good relationship with Fassett while delivering packages to her, two or three times a week, for 10 years.
A worker’s compensation commission ruled that the sight of the murder scene was “so shocking, frightening, traumatic, catastrophic and unexpected as to comprise a compensable injury by accident.”
UPS appealed, arguing that Prince’s brief sight of Fassett’s body did not constitute a “sudden shock or fright” that would allow compensation for a purely psychological injury.
However, the Virginia Court of Appeals agreed with the commission that Prince is entitled to benefits, citing Prince’s testimony that Fassett had “shrapnel and bullet wounds in her face, and her face was pretty much gone – it was all bloody.”
Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. stated, “The uncontroverted evidence is that claimant obviously stumbled on a completely unexpected, horrific and terrifying sight.”
He added that while UPS argued that Prince only saw Fassett’s body for five to 10 seconds, “the entire incident, during which claimant remained in shock, crying and vomiting, lasted over an hour.”
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