TN High Court Denies Benefits for Widow of Murdered Employee

October 8, 2010 ( – The Supreme Court of Tennessee has denied a claim for workers' compensation benefits by the widow of an employee whose murder at his workplace is unsolved.

The state’s high court agreed with lower court decisions that the employee’s death was the result of a neutral assault and that the “street risk” doctrine was inapplicable because the employer’s premises were not open to the public.  

In seeking to recover death benefits under Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation Law for herself and her daughter Ana R. Padilla, Jose Sanchez’ widow, presented evidence intended to establish that the shop in which her husband worked was in a high-crime area. She insisted that the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the evidence is that Sanchez was killed during a “burglary gone wrong” and, therefore, that the fatal assault was inherently connected with his work.  

She also argued that Sanchez’s job “put him first in line to encounter intruders” because he was the first employee at the shop each morning.  

The court said in its opinion that while it is uncontested that Sanchez was the first person to arrive at the shop, the evidence supports the conclusion that, when he was at the shop, he was as removed from the public as he could possibly be. The court noted that the business was not open to the public, Sanchez’s duties did not require him to deal with the public, members of the public were rarely in the shop, and the record contains no evidence that members of the public frequented the vicinity of the shop during the early morning hours more than at other times during the day.   

“As tragic as the facts of this case are, they do not provide a sound basis for us to conclude that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s conclusion that the “street risk” doctrine does not apply to this case,” the court said.  

The opinion in Padilla v. Twin City Fire Insurance Company is here.