Widow Awarded WC Benefits After Husband’s Suicide

Liz Carey

Saratoga County, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) – The widow of a Saratoga County Sewer District Employee will receive workers’ compensation death benefits after an appeals court ruled her husband’s suicide was directly linked to an on-the-job accident.

According to court records from the New York Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Dee Ann Meager filed for workers’ compensation benefits after her husband, Jonathan, committed suicide.

Jonathan Meager worked for the sewer district as a maintenance man and was injured on the job in May 2015. The injury to his head led to a deterioration of his physical abilities, his doctor testified. In May 2017, Jonathan was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after his family feared he had attempted suicide. Five days after his discharge on June 1, 2017, he died by suicide.

The Workers’ Compensation Law Judge granted the claim and the Workers’ Compensation Board affirmed it.

Meager’s former employer and its third party administrator appealed the claim.

According to court records, the Appellate court found that there was evidence to support that Meager’s suicide was a result of his on-the-job injury.

While Meager’s employer argued that workers’ compensation death benefits may not be awarded “when the injury has been solely occasioned… by willful intention of the injured employee to bring about the injury or death of himself,” the court cited state workers’ compensation law that says “workers’ compensation death benefits may be awarded for a suicide where the suicide results from insanity, brain derangement or a pattern of mental deterioration caused by work-related injury.”

According to court documents, Eugene Merecki, Meager’s primary care physician, testified that Meager suffered a noticeable change in his personality, demeanor and speech after the work injury.

“According to Merecki, decedent complained of headaches, ringing of the ears, changes in vision, somnolence and bedwetting in the years following the injury,” the appeals court wrote. “Merecki acknowledged that decedent had preexisting mental health issues, and he opined that decedent’s awareness of the inabilities and weaknesses that resulted from the 2015 injury, which impacted his ability to hold a job, ‘help[ed] promote and exacerbate his depression.’”

Merecki said he thought Meager’s suicide was a direct result of the degradation of his mental status, and that there was a causal relationship between Meager’s suicide resulting from depression that resulted from the head injury.

The employer’s medical expert attributed Meager’s suicide to mental health issues Meager had prior to the accident.

As the Workers’ Compensation Board believed Merecki’s opinion, the Appeal’s Court upheld the Board’s decision.

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