Workers’ Compensation Suit Reaches State Supreme Court

A violent Christmas Eve in 2008 is now at the center of an unlikely workers’ compensation suit that has found its way up to South Dakota’s highest court.

That day, Julie Tassler—an employee at an HSBC bank processing center—was taking her 15-minute break in the office parking lot.  Tassler’s schedule was fairly predictable.  As a smoker, she regularly spent her breaks in her car, indulging the habit and using her phone to catch up on phone calls and messages.

And it was during just one such break on that day—after having earlier served her spouse with divorce papers—that Tassler’s husband shot and killed her in cold blood, leaving behind two children, an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old.

In South Dakota, workers’ compensation can only be awarded to injuries that “arise out of” employment.  So the question in the case before the state’s Supreme Court is whether Tassler was killed under such conditions.  If the Court agrees with her lawyer, then her children will be able to collect two-thirds of their mother’s salary until they turn 18, in addition to $10,000 for her funeral and associated costs.

According to her attorney, Dean Nasser, her husband knew her work schedule, could predict exactly where and when he would be able to get to her, and would never have harmed her in front of the children.  Thus, they make the case that the murder indeed does “arise out of” her employment with HSBC.

A lower court disagreed, ruling against Tassler’s estate, holding that the bank “did not exacerbate or contribute to the assault,” though acknowledged that South Dakota’s Supreme Court “has not dealt directly with the issue of whether injuries sustained as the result of a domestic assault arise out of the employment.”

Tassler’s parents, who are now their legal guardians, are currently caring for the children.  But still, “[t]he kids need whatever support they can get,” Nasser said.  “They have lost immeasurably.”

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