The parents of a Santa Barbara, California, police officer have filed a lawsuit, accusing the City of causing the demise of their son, who drank himself to death after being denied workers compensation for his post-traumatic stress disorder claim.
According to the story published in Business Insurance, David Anduri, a 13-year police veteran of the City of Santa Barbara Police Department, died of liver failure in October 2014 due to drinking in excess while attempting to self-medicate his PTSD symptoms that stemmed from his job, from which he was discharged because he filed for workers comp benefits May 9, 2013, court records said.
His duties as a crime scene investigator routinely consisted of being called to situations that had “dead bodies, suicides, sexual assaults, hangings, crimes against the elderly and children, etc.,” said court filings.
Mr. Anduri began suffering from severe depression, anxiety, headaches and tremors, after many disturbing situations he experienced during his years of service, said legal records, such as when he was the first to respond to a “shots fired” call to find a person had shot themselves in the face in an attempted suicide. Mr. Anduri performed CPR on the victim, who was still alive, court records said.
After he experienced an anxiety attack while driving in May 2013, Mr. Anduri filed for workers comp benefits. He went to a doctor the city recommended to him and was diagnosed with PTSD stemming from his job as a police officer. The physician, Dr. Fred N. Morguelan, said he was “totally and temporarily disabled,” according to legal records.
The city had him see another physician, Dr. Hermoz Ayvazian, who also diagnosed him in a similar way, and then accepted his claim, placing Mr. Anduri on paid leave. In January 2014, the city, without any medical evidence to do so, denied his claim and told him that he would have to pay them back with his accrued vacation and sick time. After that he was left as an “unpaid employee.”
In March, Mr. Anduri saw the city’s doctor for a second time, who said his conditions had worsened since his initial visit in 2013. Unable to afford medical insurance, he began drinking alcohol to block his PTSD symptoms. In October, he was hospitalized for acute liver failure and died while in a coma 17 days later.
In their wrongful death lawsuit, filed Thursday, Mr. Anduri’s parents seek damages for the loss of their son’s love and companionship, among other things. They are also suing for funeral costs, lost wages, earnings, retirement benefits, pain and suffering and extreme emotional distress to their late son.
At first glance, this litigation would seem to have an uphill battle to overcome the exclusive remedy protection of workers’ compensation law, as well as the exclusive jurisdiction of the WCAB to adjudicate all matters pertaining to workers’ compensation claims. Thus, this would seem to be a contested death benefits claim.