Bull attack compensation claims rejected by Wisconsin high court

Wisconsin Capitol in Madison

A man who fell into depression and attempted suicide after he was gored by a bull can't sue an insurance company for deciding to stop covering his medication, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

According to court documents, Francis Graef was gored while working at a Bonduel livestock yard in 2012. The attack triggered a bout with depression and a doctor prescribed medication for him. The livestock yard's worker's compensation insurance carrier, Continental Indemnity Co., initially covered the cost of the medicine.

But the insurance company ended its coverage in 2015, leaving Graef without his medicine. Two months later he shot himself. He survived and in 2017 filed a negligence lawsuit against the company, arguing the decision to end coverage led to the suicide attempt. The lawsuit sought damages for the suicide attempt, medical expenses and pain and suffering.

The insurance company countered that Graef should have filed a worker's compensation claim, which would likely result in lower damage payouts than a lawsuit. A circuit court rejected that argument but the 3rd District Court of Appeals sided with the company last year.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that under state law Graef's allegations amount to a worker's compensation claim.

Graef clearly sustained his initial injury on the job through no fault of his own and his subsequent injuries — his self-inflicted gunshot wound and depression caused by discontinuation of his medicine — grew out of the bull attack, the court found. The situation fits the conditions for worker's compensation liability, not a negligence lawsuit.

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Justice Rebecca Grassley was the lone dissenter, writing that Graef's arguments were underdeveloped and the court should have given him a chance to expand them before ruling he can't pursue his claims in court.

Graef's attorney, George Burnett, declined to comment.