AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law
for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities


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Workers' Compensation

     A prisoner serving a sentence at a county jail in Mississippi suffered injuries while on a work detail in a county work program under the supervision of the sheriff's office. The county and the medical corporation that provided him with services for his injuries sought to collect reimbursement for medical expenses from a state public entity Workers' Compensation Trust that provides workers' compensation for the county. A federal appeals court found that the prisoner was not covered under workers' compensation as the county did not have an enforceable contract to hire the prisoner which was a precondition for coverage. Vuncannon v. United States, #12-60435, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 5284 (5th Cir.).
      Nurses at a county jail were held hostage by inmates who escaped from their cells. During the recapture of the inmates, one of the nurses was shot by police. The nurses sought to sue the county and a private corporation that operated the jail, seeking damages. The defendants argued that the nurses' exclusive remedy was workers' compensation, so they could not sue. A Florida appeals court found that the nurses' claims were entirely based on allegations of negligence, so that an intentional torts exception to workers' comp exclusivity did not apply. Summary judgment for the defendants was affirmed. Hunt v. Corrections Corporation of America, #1D09-1260, 2010 Fla. App. Lexis 6661 (1st Dist.).
    Correctional officers' claim that their employer had negligently or intentionally failed to establish or enforce adequate policies for their protection against wrongful conduct by prisoners was not barred by the "exclusive remedies" provision of the Alabama workers' compensation statute when the resulting damages were "purely psychological," rather than physical injuries. Bullin v. Correctional Medical Services, Inc., #2030573, 908 So. 2d 269 (Ala. Civ. App. 2004), cert. denied, #1040346 (Ala. 2005). [N/R]
     Alabama correctional officials did not violate prisoner's rights by withholding part of the monetary benefits paid to him for injuries suffered while participating in a work-release program, and using that money to pay for part of the cost of the prisoner's incarceration. The prisoner was not an "employee" within the meaning of the state's workers' compensation statute, so that the protections of the statute against garnishment or seizure of benefits awards did not apply. Further, even if he had been interpreted to be an "employee," the benefits were in lieu of wages, and therefore the seizure of them to pay for part of the cost of incarceration was authorized under state law. Gober v. Alabama Dept. of Corrections, No. 2020064, 871 So. 2d 838 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003). [N/R]
     Under state of Washington workers' compensation statute, county jail inmate trusty was entitled to medical benefits as a volunteer worker performing assigned duties without pay for injuries suffered in the course of his job. In re Wissink, # 22113-0-III, 81 P.3d 865 (Wash. App. 2003). [N/R]
     Exclusion of violent offenders, including those convicted of armed robbery, from participation in "boot camp" program which provided an opportunity for early release after engaging in strenuous exercise, manual labor, substance abuse treatment, and counseling, was not a violation of either equal protection or due process of law. Instead, it was rationally related to a legitimate penal objective. "Violent offenders" are not a "suspect" class, and there was no showing that the distinction was intended to result in racial discrimination. Jones-El v. Grady, No. 02-2406, 54 Fed. Appx. 856 (7th Cir. 2002). [N/R]
    Workers' compensation total disability benefits under Connecticut law could not be discontinued while claimant was incarcerated. Laliberte v. United Security, Inc., No. 16631, 801 A.2d 783 (Conn. 2002). [N/R]
     Evidence supported administrative law judge's determination that an employee's work as a prison guard was a contributing factor to his fatal heart attack, entitling his widow to workers' compensation death benefits. Doctor's testimony indicated that employee would not have died when he did in the absence of the physical and mental stress he experienced at work on the day of his fatal heart attack. Phillips Correctional Inst. v. Yarbrough, No. A00A22265, 548 S.E.2d 424 (Ga. App. 2001). [N/R]
     Arizona state statute exempting 50% of a debtor's disposable income from attachment to satisfy child support obligations did not apply to a prisoner's workers compensation disability benefits since these benefits were not wages or salary and the prisoner was not a debtor who needed a portion of his income for self-maintenance. Prisoner's ex-wife, therefore, was entitled to the full amount of the prisoner's benefits for child support in the absence of his successfully modifying the order of support and assignment of benefits. Hanley v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, #1 CA-IC 00-0085, 21 P.3d 856 (Ariz. App. 2001). [N/R]
     Prisoner who claimed he was injured while working at penitentiary laundry was entitled to a new hearing on his workers' compensation claim because the hearing examiner's findings in denying claim were contradicted by the "vast weight" of the evidence presented. Sweets v. Workers' Safety & Compensation Division, #01-75, 42 P.3d 461 (Wyo. 2002). [N/R]
     281:78 Idaho prisoner injured while performing maintenance work duties at the facility she was incarcerated at did not qualify as a "community service worker" entitled to workers' compensation benefits under state law. Crawford v. Dept. of Correction, 991 P.2d 358 (Idaho 1999).
     282:95 Wyoming inmate could not collect "loss of earnings" workers' compensation benefits for pre- incarceration work-related injury during the time he was incarcerated. Apodaca v. Workers' Safety & Comp. Division, No. 97-148, 97-158, 977 P.2d 56 (Wyo. 1999).
     254:29 Correctional officer not entitled to workers' compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder caused by her discovery of hanging body of prisoner who committed suicide. Pinkerton v. State Ex Rel. WWSCD, 939 P.2d 250 (Wyo. 1997).
     [N/R] Workers compensation was exclusive remedy for county jail employee who claimed that she was subjected to contaminated and inadequate air ventilation system. Cerka v. Salt Lake Co., 988 F.Supp. 1420 (D. Utah 1997).
     245:78 Cooking instructor giving vocational education to inmates was entitled to total temporary disability benefits for mental injuries caused by witnessing fight between inmates in her class. Jordan v. Central Piedmont College, 476 S.E.2d 410 (N.C. App. 1996).
     239:165 Pennsylvania court rules that prisoner's escape from custody while in work release program made him ineligible for workers' compensation benefits when later injured on job he took while attempting to avoid recapture. Graves v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Newman), 668 A.2d 606 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1995).
     Injuries suffered by inmate in fight with another prisoner while being transported from work was compensable. State Dept. of Justice, Inmate Injury Fund v. Spear, 767 P.2d 928 (Or. App. 1989).
     Imprisonment of individual did not terminate right to workers' comp benefits for disability. Re Injury to Spera, 712 P.2d 1155 (Wyo. 1987).

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