Henderson v. Town of Winslow
Maine Municipal Association
December 29, 2017
En Banc Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD §201(3) Bryant v. Masters Machine
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Ms. Henderson was a detective who in 2010 confronted a suspect who pointed a loaded firearm at her face. She was diagnosed with PTSD from that experience, but she continued to work as a detective. In 2014, she met with the new chief of police and discussed the 2010 incident “and other sources of nonwork-related stress.” Ms. Henderson went out of work thereafter and claimed mental stress injuries in both 2010 and 2014.
In her closing argument, Ms. Henderson argued that, by creating a heightened standard of proof for mental stress injuries, 39-A MRS §201 (3) violated the equal protection clause of the Federal and State constitutions, as well as the ADA. She argued that the Board should instead apply the lower legal causation standard the Maine Supreme Court established in 1982 for work aggravations of pre-existing physical conditions in Bryant v. Masters Machine. Judge Elwin rejected Ms. Henderson’s argument, applied §201 (3), and denied her petitions on both DOIs: the 2010 DOI was barred by late notice and late filing; the 2014 DOI did not meet the standards of §201 (3).
Ms. Henderson appealed, but the en banc Appellate Division panel upheld Judge Elwin’s ruling. The panel held that, by first raising the constitutional argument in her position letter, Ms. Henderson failed to provide the Town and Judge Elwin a fair opportunity to address the issues at hearing, and they upheld Judge Elwin’s decision not to address these issues in her decision. Indeed, the panel found that Ms. Henderson had failed to address the issue in her proposed findings, and she thus waived the constitutional issue by not raising it in a timely fashion.
The panel also rejected Ms. Henderson’s claim that Judge Elwin should have applied Bryant rather than §201 (3). The panel noted that the statute does not provide any lower standard for work aggravations of pre-existing mental stress conditions.