The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a sheriff’s deputy is entitled to a presumption that his post-traumatic stress disorder is an occupational disease because he presented a diagnosis of PTSD, even though his employer offered a competing diagnosis.
The Carlton County deputy witnessed several fatal incidents during his career, and after his partner’s suicide, he began seeing a clinical counselor and took nearly two years off for treatment, according to No. A22-0090.
In 2019, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression and anxiety disorder. A psychologist said he was unfit for duty as a police officer and was incapable of working in any capacity.
After telling his supervisors about his diagnosis, the deputy was placed on leave, and the county filed a claim with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. The department denied liability and ordered a second psychological evaluation, which led to a diagnosis of major depressive disorder unrelated to his employment, records show.
A replacement judge denied benefits, finding the second doctor̵7;s report “more persuasive” because the aide’s symptoms “best fit a diagnosis of major depressive disorder” rather than PTSD.
The Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals reversed and reversed, finding that insurer MCIT could not rebut the presumption that the deputy’s diagnosis was a compensable occupational disease.
The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed, stating in its Dec. 21 decision that the statutory requirement of “a diagnosis” requires an employee to satisfy his burden by presenting just that — a diagnosis by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist identifying his illness such as PTSD.
“Nothing in the statute suggests that a replacement judge must specifically determine that an employee’s PTSD diagnosis is more credible than any competing diagnosis before the presumption applies,” the court said.
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