Kealoha v. Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, 2013 WL 1405951 (9th Cir. 2013)

Two years after William Kealoha was injured when he fell 25 to 50 feet from a barge to a dry dock while working as a ship laborer, he shot himself in the head, causing severe head injuries. He later filed a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, alleging that his suicide attempt resulted from his earlier fall and the litigation related to that claim. Kealoha's expert psychiatrist diagnosed him with major depressive disorder due to multiple traumas and chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and a cognitive disorder. The Benefits Review Board ("BRB") denied benefits because Kealoha's suicide attempt was deemed to be intentional and not the result of an "irresistible impulse." The Ninth Circuit granted Kealoha's petition and reversed the decision of the BRB, holding that "a suicide or injuries from a suicide attempt are compensable under the Longshore Act when there is a direct and unbroken chain of causation between a compensable work-related injury and the suicide attempt. The claimant need not demonstrate that the suicide or attempt stemmed from an irresistible suicidal impulse." See also County of Sacramento v. WCAB, 2013 WL 1715802 (Cal. Ct. App. 2013) (case remanded for determination of whether the causes of the employee's psychiatric injury were personnel actions and thus subject to the personnel action defense of Labor Code § 3208.3(h)); Minish v. Hanuman Fellowship, 214 Cal. App. 4th 437 (2013) (accident victim who had obtained workers' compensation benefits was not judicially estopped from denying that she was a volunteer/employee covered by the Workers' Compensation Act in subsequent negligence action against nonprofit premises owner).