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Couples injured at the murder scene cannot claim damages



A middle-aged couple who were seriously injured when they went to examine a neighbor at the request of a law enforcement officer should not be awarded benefits other than workers' benefits, even if they were not employed by the local government, California Supreme Court held Thursday.

In Gund v. County of Trinity the court upheld a trial court that ruled that the couple was engaged in active law enforcement when they followed the officer's instructions and were therefore entitled to employee compensation and limited by the California State Exclusive Act.

On March 13, 2011, the California Highway Patrol received a phone call from a female caller living in the southwest corner of Trinity County, a sparsely populated and mountainous county covering more than 3,000 square miles.

The sheriff's office was almost 1

00 miles from the source of the call. The transmitter thought that the woman might have tried to call 911 in secret, but still tried to call the woman back twice without success. Corporal Ronald Whitman of the Trinity Sheriff & # 39 ;s Office knew that Norma and James Gund lived near the woman and asked them to check on her.

He mentioned that the woman on the phone told the sender "help me" but did not pass on any more information. He also said she might have just called because a storm was approaching, but he asked Gunds if they had ever met the woman's boyfriend and if he seemed violent.

Gunds drove to the woman's home, where they were attacked by a man who had just murdered the woman and her boyfriend. They were both hit in the neck and Mr Gund was punched and dropped, but he managed to disarm the attacker and the couple fled. Whitman falsely assured them that the neighbor's conversation was weather-related and deliberately contained facts.

The county and corporal moved for a summary assessment and argued that work compensation was Gund's exclusive cure. A trial court granted the motion and Gunds appealed.

The Supreme Court of California upheld the decision in a 5-2 decision. California law deals with the public participating in "active law enforcement" at the request of a peace officer entitled to compensation for workers, and the court found that Gunds participated in "active law enforcement" when they went to the neighbor's house at the corporal's request and suffered significant injuries.

The court found that the intent of California law was to make workers compensated for coverage whenever a peace officer requests assistance in "active law enforcement" because citizens who provide assistance "may not always know the extent of the risk involved in a response."

Gunds argued that they should not be subjected to the exclusive remedy because of the corporal's misrepresentations, which they claimed made the assistance "involuntary", but the court disagreed. [19659002] "Whether any alleged omissions in Corporal Whitman's request may prove relevant to legal proceedings accusing malfeas and they do not change our conclusion as to the extent of workers' compensation in this tragic case," the court said.

wrote that they could not accept that "an unarmed, untrained middle-aged couple, by stumbling upon an active murder scene, were actually working as law enforcement officials. "

" Workers' compensation may be an easier way to compensate Gunds, "wrote the different justices, but" the majority decision prevents Gunds from seeking pain. and suffering injuries … they have suffered since they were the victims of a particularly brutal attack … Gunds had every reason to believe Corporal Whitman and almost lost his life by doing so. They should not lose their claims for damages either.


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