Troopers Lose Workers’ Comp Claim For Hepatitis Incurred While Eating Meal On Stakeout

Richard Davy and Nicholas Loffredo are members of the Pennsylvania State Police, normally stationed in Lamar, Pennsylvania. On October 5, 2003, the troopers traveled to Beaver, Pennsylvania to conduct surveillance in a homicide investigation. The following day, the troopers began working at approximately 5:00 a.m. and conducted surveillance for four hours. After returning to the hotel to sleep for a few hours, they went to the local police department, met with the sergeant, and informed him they were conducting surveillance in the area.

At approximately 5:00 p.m., the troopers went to dinner at a Chi Chi’s restaurant. After dinner, the troopers returned to work and conducted surveillance for one hour.

Along with 500 other individuals who ate at the same Chi Chi’s restaurant on October 6, the troopers later were diagnosed as suffering from Hepatitis A. Both troopers filed for workers’ compensation benefits.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court (Pennsylvania’s court of appeals) rejected the troopers’ claims. The Court held that to be compensable, the troopers’ hepatitis condition had to be incurred “in the performance of their duties.” The troopers argued that the only reason they were in Beaver and at the restaurant was so that they could continue to perform their surveillance duties. The troopers also contended that because they were reimbursed for their meals by the State Police, eating in a restaurant was an activity the State Police expected so they could perform their mission.

The Court believed the troopers’ arguments reached too far: “While the State Police provide reimbursement for meals and lodging for troopers on assignment, this Court cannot accept the troopers’ contention that any meal consumed while on assignment away from home is an obligatory task, conduct, service, or function that arose from their position as police officers. The troopers had no obligation or duty to eat at that particular restaurant or to eat at any restaurant on this assignment. Under the troopers’ theory, any injury that occurred while a trooper was on assignment away from home would qualify for benefits because, absent the assignment, the trooper would not be where the injury occurred. This Court cannot accept that the troopers were in the performance of their duties while they were eating dinner while on an overnight assignment.”

Davy v. Pennsylvania State Police, 2005 WL 1367217 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2005).

This article appears in the August 2005 issue