Las Vegas POA

On-Call Status And Line Of Duty Deaths

Written on 04/08/2021
Will Aitchison

Dale Newman was the Police Chief for the City of Leadwood, Missouri. In that capacity, Newman “was always subject to call.”

Newman also held a second job as a warehouse worker with UPS in Crystal City, Missouri, where he loaded package delivery trucks. On August 27, 2014, Newman was loading delivery trucks at the UPS facility when he suffered a fatal heart attack. The medical ex­aminer concluded the cause of death was arteriosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease and that the manner of death was natural.

Newman’s estate filed a claim for $25,000 from the Line of Duty Com­pensation Fund. When an adminis­trative law judge denied the claim, the estate appealed.

The Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the denial of the claim. The question for the Court was whether Newman’s on-call status meant that he was engaged “in the active performance of his duties” as police chief at the time he suffered the heart attack. The Court found that he was not.

The Court observed that “whether or not a police officer is technically on duty is a factor in the analysis of whether the injury arises out of and in the course of the officer’s employment, but it is not determinative. Rather, courts have found claimants eligible for workers’ compensation benefits on several oc­casions when an officer is injured or killed even while technically off duty.

“The key issue is whether the actions performed by the officers were of the kind they undertook in their roles as officers or if the officers were killed in a particular situation by virtue of being officers. In contrast, when an officer is not performing law enforcement duties, even if in uniform, an officer’s injury is likely not compensable.

“Here, it is undisputed that New­man was on the dock in Crystal City loading packages into a UPS delivery truck. While we note that Newman would have been on call as police chief even during this time, we do not agree with the Estate that therefore Newman was in the active performance of his duties as police chief at all times, with­out limitation. Such a holding would expand liability of the Line of Duty Compensation Fund beyond what the legislature intended.

“No reader should construe this opinion to diminish the service of Newman as police chief and as a law enforcement officer during his lifetime, or the immense loss suffered by the survivors of Newman and the citizens of the City of Leadwood. Unfortunately, the plain and unambiguous language of the controlling statute requires that Newman was engaged in the active performance of his duties as police chief when he suffered a fatal heart attack. Because the act of loading delivery trucks at UPS does not constitute the active performance of his police duties, we find the Estate is not entitled to benefits from the Line of Duty Com­pensation Fund.”

Estate of Newman v. City of Lead­wood, 611 S.W. 3d 529 (Mo. Ct. App. 2020).

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