In cases of workplace assaults, a lack of evidence regarding the motivation for an assault does not rebut the presumption that the injury is compensable under workers’ compensation law, ruled the New York Court of Appeals, clarifying the rebuttable presumption in state law.

That presumption provides that when an injury arises in the course of a worker’s employment, it is presumed to arise of out that employment and is compensable, absent substantial evidence to the contrary, the court’s opinion noted.

This ruling, which reverses an appellate decision, stemmed from a shooting incident at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital. Henry Bello, a former employee of BLH, entered the hospital armed with a loaded AR-15 rifle and opened fire, killing one doctor and wounding five members of the medical staff, including Justin Timperio, who was working as a first-year medical resident. Bello and Timperio were strangers, having never worked at the hospital at the same time or had any prior contact.

The hospital notified the Workers’ Compensation Board of Timperio’s injuries in July 2017 and requested an administrative decision from the WCB to establish a claim under New York workers’ compensation law.

Timperio sued BLH in federal court accusing the hospital and the store that sold Bello the rifle he used in the shooting of negligence. The federal court stayed the action pending resolution of the workers’ comp claim.

In September 2020, a Workers’ Compensation Law Judge determined that Timperio’s injuries were compensable, which Tiberio appealed but was then affirmed by the WCB.

However, the Appellate Division reversed the WCB’s decision, stating that the lack of evidence establishing any employment-related animus between Bello and Timperio was sufficient to rebut the presumption of compensability under the state’s workers’ compensation law. The appeals court concluded that the claim was therefore not compensable.

The New York Court of Appeals has now reversed that decision, finding that the Appellate Division erred in its application of the state’s presumption.

The Court of Appeals emphasized that the presumption is rebuttable by “substantial evidence” establishing that it was not the workplace itself that exposed the employee to harm.

However, where the assault occurs in the course of employment and there is no evidence as to its motivation, the presumption is triggered and is not rebutted. The court stated that the Appellate Division essentially inverted the “nexus” standard by requiring the Board to come forward with evidence of a nexus to employment.

View the decision in Justin Timperio vs. Bronx-Lebanon Hospital et al on the New York Courts website. &

The post Lack of Motive in Workplace Assault Doesn’t Rebut Presumption of Compensability: Court appeared first on Risk & Insurance.