Police Recruit’s Widow Can’t Sue Norfolk, VA

     (CN) – Workers’ compensation forecloses claims against Norfolk, Va., over the police recruit who died after sustaining repeated blows to the head, the state Supreme Court ruled.
     John Kohn died of head trauma in December 2010, three months after he began training at the Norfolk Police Academy as a recruit.
     In an ensuing complaint against Norfolk, Kohn’s widow, Patricia Kohn, blamed her husband’s bilateral subdural hematomas on the repeated, heavy blows to the head he received during training, including a head-to-head collision with another recruit, and blows to the head during a defensive-training exercise.
     Indeed the day that Kohn collapsed at the police academy – Dec. 9, 2010 – Officer Leldon Sapp repeatedly struck him “in the head with his fists to the point where plaintiff’s decedent was no longer able to defend himself from Officer Sapp,” a brief to the Norfolk City Circuit Court says.
     Kohn arrived at the hospital in a coma and died nine days later.
     The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment for Norfolk and police personnel Friday because Kohn’s injury and death arose out of his employment, and are therefore covered by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act.
     “This case significantly differs from the gradually incurred injury and repetitive trauma cases referenced by [Patricia] Kohn in that John suffered an obvious mechanical or structural change in his body while engaged in a work activity which exposed him to an employment-related hazard that injured him and contributed to his death,” Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn wrote for the seven-justice court.
     “The training on December 9, 2010 was a condition of employment that exposed John to the hazard of blows to the head beyond that of the public at large, and the injury John suffered during training on December 9, 2010 was a proximate cause of his death,” Goodwyn concluded. “Thus, his death is properly construed as accidental within the meaning of the act.”

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