Lane v. City of Tucson – 3/26/2008

April 1, 2008

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds That Gunshot Wounds Suffered By Off Duty Police Officer Acting to Save the Life of A Friend Are Compensable Under Worker’s Compensation Benefits.

After a nighttime bike ride with friends, off-duty Tucson Police Officer, Kelly Lane, heard gunshots.  Shortly thereafter a car approached Lane and his friends and opened fire on the men.  Although initially taking cover and working on a plan to apprehend the suspects, when he realized his friend remained unprotected he ran to protect him and was then shot in the back.  Lane later filed a claim for worker’s compensation benefits.  A hearing was held and the administrative law judge found Lane’s injuries did not arise out of and occur in the course of his employment and therefore ruled that they were not compensable injuries under his worker’s compensation benefits.  This ruling was affirmed on review and a special action followed.

The Arizona Appeals Court accepted jurisdiction and set aside the award. To be compensable under worker’s compensation benefits, an injury must arise out of and in the course of one’s employment.  An injury arises out of employment if it results from a risk of employment or is incidental to the discharge of duty.  Compensation is justified if the risk is either: peculiar to the employment, the employment causes an increased risk of exposure to injury, actual risk of employment, or was created by the position that the employment placed the employee in.  Courts also examine whether the origin of the risk was directly related to work, wholly personal, mixed, or neutral. 

The Court found that as a police officer, Lane suffered an increased risk and a risk peculiar to his employment as a police officer because the Tucson Police Department code of conduct required him to “act in an official capacity,” even while off duty, if he observed an incident that required police action.  The Court further found that Lane’s motivations were mixed – he acted out of a desire to help his friends and based on his police training.  The Court further found that injury occurred in the course of employment because Lane was required by his code of conduct to prevent crime and protect life while off duty.    

Judge Eckerstrom authored the opinion, Judges Espinosa and Vásquez concurred.