Reserve Officer’s Heart Attack During Physical Fitness Tests For Permanent Appointment May Be Job-Related

Kevin Standring was a reserve police officer for the Town of Skowhegan, Maine. In July 2002, a full-time patrol officer position became available. Standring and two other reserves applied for promotion to the full-time position.

A physical agility test was a required part of the application process. Standring and the two other reserves participated in the test in August 2002. During the course of the test, Standring suffered a heart attack.

Standring subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim arising out of the heart attack. When the Town denied the claim, the case eventually made its way to the Maine Supreme Court.

The Court found that since Standring was a reserve rather than an applicant who was entirely unconnected with the Town, his heart attack during the physical fitness test might well have occurred in the course and scope of employment. The Court found that the applicable test was that an injury is compensable “if the injury, in some proximate way, had its origin, its source, or its cause in the employment.”

The Court found such a connection could easily be present in Standring’s case: “Although applying for a full-time officer position was not a required condition of employment as a reserve officer, the reserve officers’ applications for advancement were certainly promoted and thus permitted by the Town. Standring’s activities arguably serve both the business purposes of the Town and his interest in advancement. In participating in a physical agility test for which they were not paid, the employees arguably engaged in an insubstantial deviation from their regular employment as reserve officers.

“The hazard or condition that brought on the heart attack was the physical agility test of the employer. Thus, it was an employer, not an employee-created hazard. Further, the injury occurred during the employees’ performing the physical agility test in the manner in which it was intended to be performed and not from the employee’s engaging in unreasonably reckless actions or creating excessive risk.”

Though the Court remanded the case to a workers’ compensation hearings officer for reconsideration, the Court’s opinion left no doubt of the Court’s view that workers’ compensation benefits would be appropriate for Standring.

Standring v. Town of Skowhegan, 870 A.2d 128 (Me. 2005).

This article appears in the June 2005 issue