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Orange County Denies WC Benefits to Deputies Injured During Vegas Shooting

On the night of October 1, 2017, a person who will not be named so as to avoid bringing more notoriety to a mass murderer,  opened fire on a crowd of concert goers in Las Vegas, Nevada.  It was a mass shooting in which 58 people were killed and over 500 were injured.

Among the crowd of concert goers was a number of off-duty Sheriff’s Deputies from Orange County, California.  These deputies quickly sprang into action, assisting with first aid, evacuation of concert goers, and guarding the perimeter as the confusion cleared and the crisis came under control of first-responders.

Without a doubt, the events of October 1, 2017 ranged from fatal for some, traumatic from others, and, of course, shocking the country as it watched.

Now, four of those Sheriff’s deputies have filed workers’ compensation claims in Orange County, seeking compensation benefits as a result of their exposure during the mass shooting, including psyche and physical injuries.  Fair warning, dear readers, the comments are nothing short of poison, so read them at your own peril.

Part of the issue here is, of course, policy – does the Orange County Sheriff’s Office want its deputies to spring into action as peace officers when they are not in California?  Would the same want Nevada’s visiting peace officers to spring into action and assist?

The other question is, of course, one of law.  Should a claim for injuries sustained by off-duty deputies outside of the state, let alone the county, be compensable?

Labor Code section 5305 provides for jurisdiction injuries sustained outside of California if the applicant is regularly employed in California.  Section 3600.5 provides the same if the injury is “arising out of and in the course of employment outside of” California.

Well, last week, Orange County denied the claims.  Citing Labor Code section 3600.2(a), “[w]henever any peace officer … is injured, dies, or is disabled from performing his duties … by reason of engaging in [your typical cop stuff] anywhere in this state … but is not at the time acting under the immediate direction of his employer …” he gets the WC benefits.  In other words, off duty cops in California are covered if they act as on-duty cops and sustain injury.

Orange County is taking the position that this statute excludes the same OUTSIDE of California.

As much as your humble blogger hates to admit it, these appear to be legitimate claims, although, of course, the question of nature and extent seems open still.  In reading this section, I would interpret 3600.2 to limit its application to clarify that off-duty cops get the same coverage as on-duty cops.  After all, injuries sustained outside of California by California employees while working abroad are still compensable.

We have provided WC benefits to those California employees injured on a film set in Hawaii, after all.  To interpret this statute as some sort of limitations appears to your humble blogger to be a stretch.  In fact, it seems pretty clearly worded to expand the scope of coverage rather than to limit it.  But perhaps we will see some new, very narrowly tailored, law come out of this situation.

Special thanks to Jeff for sending this story my way!

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