Recruit’s wrongful death suit dismissed
NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – The family of Norfolk Police Recruit John Kohn can not take their wrongful death lawsuit before a jury.
Kohn was repeatedly hit in the head December 9, 2010. He died from complications from that training on December 18.
Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Mary Jane Hall ruled Monday that worker compensation is the only exclusive remedy for the Kohn Family because there were no material facts in dispute and no need for a jury. In the ruling, Judge Hall ruled the $30 million wrongful death lawsuit is terminated.
The Kohn Family attorney Jim Lewis wanted to get this to a jury. He told WAVY.com, “They had a training program in place to inflict head trauma to these recruits. It was intended to do that, and there was no safety net to respond to either evaluate whether the program was safe, or to respond if there was a brain injury like what happened to Mr. Kohn.”
Following Kohn’s death defensive tactics training changed with the City.
The City argued this was an accident and since Kohn was a City employee, it is a worker compensation issue and should be determined by the Industrial Commission that sets worker comp payments.
The worker compensation formula brings much less than what a jury decision would bring.
The City Attorney’s Office released the following statement following Monday’s ruling:
The City extends its sympathy to the Kohn family on the loss of Mr. Kohn.
Virginia law dictates the forum wherein claims for workplace injuries and deaths can be brought. The issue heard yesterday was whether the Circuit Court of Norfolk could properly maintain jurisdiction over the wrongful death claim filed by Mr. Kohn’s estate, or whether the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over the claim for his death. Judge Hall determined the claim was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. The City’s position has always been that Mr. Kohn’s family was entitled to full death benefits provided for under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act.
The Kohns can appeal to the State Supreme Court, but that decision has not been made.
The FOLLOWING ARE COMMENTS FROM ATTORNEY MICHELE LEWANE:
This is such a terrible situation for this family. An intentional assault should be allowed to be tried by a jury. Under workers compensation in Virginia , all the dependents will share 2/3rd’s of this recruit’s average weekly wage.So if he made $52,000 a year or $1000 a week, they would get $666.67 a week. If he had a wife, two kids, they would each get $222.22 a week at the most for 9 1/2 years.It usually stops much sooner. If a child turns 18 and does not go to college, he stops getting paid. If the wife remarries, she stops getting paid. They get nothing for the pain and loss of a husband and father.The only silver lining may be that the public will learn how little people get while on workers comp that they would write to their state congressman to counter the insurance companies’ lobbyists