Mississippi’s Court of Appeals says the city of Jackson can’t deny workers’ compensation benefits to a police officer injured in a wreck while he was speeding.
The court ruled 10-0 Tuesday that the city must pay former officer Kearney Brown for injuries suffered in 2012 when Brown crashed his patrol car. He was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the car, and injured his head, neck, body and ankle.
The city had argued that Brown’s excessive speed, as high as 90 mph (145 kph) meant he had intended to injure himself, one reason an employer can refuse to pay for injuries. Brown testified he was driving fast to reach an officer who had called for assistance.
The court ruling says Brown resigned from the police department in 2013 after an internal affairs investigator warned him months later that he would be fired for negligence if he didn’t. The city refused to pay Brown’s medical bills after he resigned.
An administrative judge and the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission had earlier ruled for Brown, saying the city had presented no proof that he intended to injure himself.
The court rejected the city’s argument that Brown’s intent to injure himself could be inferred from reckless conduct, as courts in Florida have ruled. It also rejected the city’s claim that it would be bad public policy to award benefits to Brown because his speeding was a threat to innocent bystanders.
“There is no credible evidence to suggest that Brown willfully acted with the intent to injure himself,” Presiding Judge Tyree Irving wrote for the court. “This issue is without merit.”
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