Westmoreland County, PA (WorkersCompensation.com) – The widow of a former corrections officer says she may file suit against her husband’s employer because his suicide was work-related.
Henry “Sonny” Caruso was a corrections officer at the prison until October of last year when county officials learned he was a suspect in an investigation into possible human trafficking and prostitution at his wife’s massage parlor businesses. Caruso’s wife, Hui Xu, 44, of Mt. Pleasant, Penn., ran four massage parlors in the area. Investigators into her businesses alleged Caruso helped Xu by providing her with women whom he picked up at bus stops and brought to the spas to work.
When county officials learned Caruso was a suspect in the investigation, Westmoreland County Prison warden John Walton suspended Caruso with pay. Two weeks after his suspension, Caruso took his own life.
In his suicide note, according to the Tribune-Review, Caruso blamed the county and Walton specifically, for his death, and asked that county officials and the warden be held responsible for their actions.
Xu and four others were charged with conspiracy, corrupt organizations, trafficking individuals, prostitution and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities by the Pennsylvania Attorney General in March.
After Xu’s arrest, according to the Tribune-Review, Jim Burn, a Pittsburgh workers’ compensation attorney, sent letters to the Westmoreland County commissioners and Walton about a potential case against the county in Caruso’s death.
On her Facebook page, Xu repeatedly claimed innocence and said her husband died trying to tell the truth about her businesses.
“Cop raided my all of my businesses and my husband ‘s house trying to find evidence. And my husband after all the things happened he took he own life,” Xu said in a Facebook post on April 25. “I have all the documents to prove everything is true… I am really sick and tired and scared of the whole world. Whole world running lies and coldness. I hope God can showing the truth to the world. I hope the world still running love not lies. It’s all I can say. As my husband said. I am innocent. 100 percent innocent. It’s my husband use his life to tell the world in his last sentence!”
In an interview with WorkersCompensation.com, Walton said he could not discuss any pending litigation and referred questions to the county’s solicitor Melissa Guissy. Guissy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Burn did not return calls with questions about whether he intended to file a workers’ compensation claim in regards to Caruso’s death.
According to the Tribune-Review, Vince Quatrini, a workers’ compensation attorney in Greensburg, PA, said it is possible to claim a work-related cause for suicide.
“If a suicide was substantially caused by events at a workplace, the spouse and children are entitled to weekly compensation,” Quatrini said. “It’s rare, and I’ve not seen a lot of it, but rare doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”
Commissioner Ted Kopas dismissed the idea in to the Tribune-Review.
“My primary concern is protecting the county,” Kopas said. “Any potential legal action from Caruso’s family is nonsense.”