Murdered Hospital Tech’s Family Fights for Workers’ Comp

The family of an anesthesiology technician who was gunned down while making his way to the hospital, where he was called in last-minute to assist with liver transplant, is seeking workers’ compensation benefits from his employer.

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Stephen Halton Jr. was fatally shot back in January 2014 as he waited at an RTA bus stop around 4:30 a.m. He was just 30-years-old, a husband and father of two who also left behind two loving parents.

Now, his family is warring against Halton’s former employer, arguing the Cleveland Clinic should pay workers’ compensation death benefits. Initially, the Ohio Industrial Commission had refused the claim because, as the hearing officer noted, Halton was required to be on call starting at 6 a.m. For that reason, the hearing officer held that Halton couldn’t have been considered “on call” when he was shot one-and-a-half hours earlier at 4:30 a.m. 

But in a subsequent hearing, the full commission switched course and sided with the family on appeal. It was determined that the language in Halton’s employment contract stated time spent traveling to the hospital would be considered to have been on-call time and was paid. Family members at that time also pointed out that courts in Ohio have numerous times sided with employees who were killed or injured while responding to work calls.

Halton reportedly received a call around midnight, instructing him to be at the hospital in time for a liver transplant that was to take place at 6 a.m. For that reason, the commission ruled, Halton was acting in the course and scope of employment while he waited at that bus stop.

The commission ordered the man’s family to pay death benefits, which would be retroactive to the date he died, and would continue throughout the appellate process. The hospital responded to this order with an appeal to the county court of common please requesting a reversal of the commission’s ruling.

The man’s father, who is not personally seeking any benefits, said he was deeply troubled that his son’s employer, for whom his son was a loyal and hard-working employee, was fighting to deny his daughter-in-law and grandchildren the benefits they deserve. He called the company greedy and insensitive.

“If he didn’t get that call, he wouldn’t have been out there,” his father later told reporters with WKYC Channel 3. He explained his son wanted the best for his children, and that’s why he had agreed to take on the overtime by being on-call each week.

The company says that while Halton’s death was tragic, the company has no legal responsibility to pay for the death of a worker who died during his commute.

This situation raises questions on the coming-and-going rule for on-call employees, and unfortunately, there is no clear-cut, widely-accepted rule here. The coming-and-going rule holds that employees can’t collect workers’ compensation for injuries suffered on their way to or from work. However, there are exceptions, and on-call employees who are called in for an assignment may fall under that umbrella. But companies fight these cases vigorously.

Take for example the 2013 Tennessee Supreme Court case of Shannon v. Roane Medical Center, justices ruled that while workers’ compensation benefits aren’t necessarily extended to all on-call employees who are injured while traveling from home to work in response to a call, in this case, the worker was entitled to benefits. This plaintiff, like Halton, was also a hospital worker who was called in one early morning in 2010 to assist with an emergency surgery. Another vehicle crossed the center line and smashed into hers, causing her to suffer serious injuries that resulted in a loss of nine months of work.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Family of Cleveland Clinic tech shot dead now fighting hospital over denied compensation, Aug. 2, 2016, By John Harber, Cleveland.com

More Blog Entries:

Bugging Out: Staying Safe From Insects On The Job, Aug. 7, 2016, Greensboro Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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