Widow Of Police Captain Who Committed Suicide Wins Workers’ Comp Benefits

David Davison was a captain in the Loveland, Colorado Police Department for many years until he committed suicide in 1996. After his suicide, Davison’s widow filed an application for workers’ compensation benefits. After a lengthy process that included two trips though the court system, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the grant of workers’ compensation benefits.

The key issue before the court was whether Davison suffered from on-the-job stresses that were “psychologically traumatic.” The Court pointed to Davison’s role in disciplining officers who had engaged in sex with prostitutes during a sting operation, and the significant depression Davison suffered as a result.

As put by the Court, “Davison’s ability to function on the job until early 1996 was corroborated by the fact that the Chief had assigned him the sole responsibility of disciplining the officers in the sting operation, and that Davison had just received a community award naming him officer of the year, which recognized his outstanding contributions as a member of the Department. The Police Chief testified that the sting operation ‘was the straw that broke the camel’s back’ in terms of stress.”

The Court summarized the evidence supporting the grant of workers’ compensation benefits as follows: “(1) No specific event initially caused Davison’s depression; (2) his depression was consistent with the kinds of pressures typically associated with the position of police captain; (3) Davison was able to function normally in spite of his depression prior to the sting operation; (4) the sting operation was the culmination of Davison’s depression; and (5) Davison committed suicide only five days after the Chief assigned him the responsibility of disciplining the officers involved in the sting operation.”

City of Loveland Police Department v. Industrial Claims Appeals Office of the State of Colorado, 2006 WL 1348420 (Colo.App. 2006).

This article appears in the August 2006 issue