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Pennsylvania Court Holds Employer Need Not Force Employee to Seek Immediate Medical Attention

August 9, 2016

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A Pennsylvania affirmed a jury’s defense verdict that an employer-defendant was <em>not</em> negligent when it did not force an employee to seek medical attention for a heart attack.
In <a href="">Jackson v Conrail</a>, plaintiff described feeling “something” in his chest, so his Conrail co-workers drove him back to headquarters. The plaintiff declined numerous offers to be taken to a medical facility and instead asked to be taken home. He independently sought medical attention, underwent surgery, and never returned to work. The plaintiff sued his employer two years later for negligence. The matter went to trial and the jury rendered a defense verdict.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued the finding that Conrail was not negligent was against the weight of the evidence. Upon review, the Court reiterated that: “The issue of negligence is one for juries to determine according to their finding of whether an employer’s conduct measures up to what a reasonable and prudent person would have done under the same circumstances.” The Court reasoned that certain evidence the jury heard regarding the plaintiff’s conduct and Conrail’s conduct justified the jury’s finding that Conrail acted reasonably. Specifically, the Court cited evidence that the plaintiff clearly verbalized that he thought he pulled a muscle or was getting sick, and believed he would be fine – he did not verbalize any belief that he was having a heart attack. Conrail employees provided the plaintiff aspirin and repeatedly asked if he wanted to be taken to a hospital or have an ambulance called. The plaintiff refused these repeated offers and clearly communicated that he wanted to go home. The Court also cited the absence of any evidence that would have indicated to Conrail employees that the plaintiff was, in fact, having a heart attack.
This decision suggests that a clear record establishing an employer’s positive conduct and good behavior can yield large payoffs throughout litigation, and especially at trial.
Thanks to Rachel Freedman for her contribution to this post.


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