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United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Prince

Court of Appeals of Virginia

September 9, 2014

UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC. AND LIBERTY INSURANCE CORPORATION
v.
KIRK V. PRINCE

FROM THE VIRGINIA WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION.

Patricia C. Arrighi (PennStuart, on brief), for appellants.

Gregory O. Harbison (Harbison & Kavanagh, PLLC, on brief), for appellee.

Present: Judges Humphreys, Alston and Decker.

Page 801

[63 Va.App. 704] OPINION

ROSSIE D. ALSTON, JR. JUDGE

United Parcel Service, Inc. (" employer" ) and Liberty Insurance Corporation appeal a decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission (" the commission" ) awarding Kirk V. Prince (" claimant" ) benefits. Employer argues that the commission erred when it reversed the finding by the deputy commissioner and awarded benefits to claimant for post-traumatic stress disorder (" PTSD" ). Finding no error, we affirm.

I. Background

" 'On appeal from a decision of the [commission], the evidence and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from that evidence are viewed in the light most favorable to the party prevailing below.'" Snyder v. City of Richmond Police Dep't, 62 Va.App. 405, 408, 748 S.E.2d 650, 652 (2013) (quoting Artis v. Ottenberg's Bakers, Inc., 45 Va.App. 72, 83, 608 S.E.2d 512, 517 (2005) ( en banc )). So viewed, the evidence indicated that on January 7, 2013, claimant, a forty-two-year-old at the time who had been working for employer since 1995, specifically as a delivery driver for twelve years, arrived at Barbara Fassett's home to deliver a package and found her lying on the ground with blood on her face. It was later determined that Ms. Fassett had sustained a fatal gunshot wound to her face. Claimant filed his claim for benefits on February 6, 2013, alleging a compensable injury (PTSD) by accident from the circumstances associated with having observed the gruesome scene of the January homicide. Claimant sought a medical award and temporary total disability benefits from January 10, 2013, through June 2, 2013, based [63 Va.App. 705] upon an average weekly wage of $1,545.48. Employer defended the claim on the grounds that the incident did not qualify as a compensable injury by accident that arose out of claimant's employment and that claimant failed to market his remaining work capacity.[1]

At the hearing before the deputy commissioner on May 23, 2013, claimant testified that he had been making deliveries to Ms. Fassett's home two to three times a week for approximately ten years and had developed a good relationship with her. Around 5:30 p.m. on January 7, 2013, claimant arrived at Ms. Fassett's home to make a regular delivery and as he walked towards the house, he noticed glass on the porch and saw a woman lying in the doorway of the house. As claimant moved closer to the woman and yelled out to ask if she was okay, he noticed that " she was covered in blood over the face" at which point claimant backed away and dialed 911.

Claimant testified that he recognized the victim as Ms. Fassett and described what he witnessed as a " really really gruesome scene." Specifically, claimant observed blood on Ms. Fassett's face and the bottom part of her mouth. In claimant's recorded interview taken seven days after the incident on January 14, 2013, claimant stated that " I thought she had passed out - I proceeded to look inside at her and she had been shot several times." In his recorded interview, claimant was asked if " there [was] any visible evidence as [he] walked up to the door that there might have been a situation that had happened [at Ms. Fassett's house]?" Claimant responded:

Page 802

Yeah -- I thought -- the glass to the screen door had been broken and I thought she had fall -- my initial -- um -- assessment was that she had fell or something like that -- or she may have passed out or something -- I did not notice what had happened until I got closer to her.

[63 Va.App. 706] Claimant stated that as he moved closer, when he looked at Ms. Fassett's face, he could tell she had " shrapnel and bullet wounds in her face and her face was pretty much gone -- it was all bloody." At that ...


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