New Mexico COA Decides Tribal Police Officer May Recover Worker’s Comp for Certain Off-Duty, Off-Reservation Activities

Here is the opinion in Schultz v. Pojoaque Tribal Police Dep’t. An excerpt:

In this workers’ compensation case, the issue before us is whether Officer Kevin Schultz’s accidental death arose out of and within the course of his employment with the Pueblo of Pojoaque Tribal Police Department (Employer). The workers’ compensation judge (WCJ) concluded that Officer Schultz’s death did not arise out of and in the course of his  employment because he was off-duty, outside his jurisdiction, and on a personal day trip near the Rio Grande at the time of the accident. Because of the unique nature of law enforcement duties, we conclude that law enforcement officers may recover workers’ compensation benefits in some instances for off-duty injuries occurring in response to circumstances reasonably calling for police officer assistance. Accordingly, because we also hold that there was a sufficient nexus between Officer Schultz’s actions in undertaking the rescue of a drowning child and the duties of his employment as a police officer, we reverse.

New Mexico SCT Orders Equitable Tolling of Statute of Limitations on Worker’s Comp Claim against Pojoaque Police Dept.

Here is the opinion in Schultz v. Pojoaque Tribal Police Dept. (N.M.).

An excerpt:

{1} On August 17, 2002, Pojoaque Tribal Police Officer Kevin Schultz drowned while rescuing a twelve-year-old boy from the Rio Grande near Pilar, New Mexico. On the day of the accident, Schultz had taken the day off from work to chaperone a group of children from his church on a recreational outing. This case arose when Schultz’s  widow, Cheryl, filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits resulting from her husband’s death, but only after the statute of limitations had expired.

{2} Notwithstanding the late filing, Mrs. Schultz contends that the conduct of the Pojoaque Tribal Police Department (police department or employer) caused her to file after the deadline, and thus, we should consider her complaint timely filed pursuant to NMSA 1978, Section 52-1-36 (1937) (as amended through 1989) of the Workers’ Compensation Act (the Act), entitled “Effect of failure of worker to file claim by reason of conduct of employer.” This particular statute goes to the heart of Mrs. Schultz’s appeal.

{3} Both the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) and the Court of Appeals decided that Mrs. Schultz’s complaint was not timely filed. For the reasons that follow, we  reverse and remand to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.