Federal judge says he has no authority in former deputy’s worker’s comp case

Published: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 - 12:00 am

A federal judge has ruled he is without authority to decide whether Sacramento County should continue workers’ compensation payments to a former sheriff’s deputy who survived a 2005 helicopter crash that killed two other deputies.

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. threw out Eric Henrikson’s lawsuit that claimed the county is not entitled to offset his $26 million recovery from the helicopter’s manufacturer against on-the-job insurance benefits known as workers’ compensation.

England ruled that Henrikson “has identified no basis for this court’s jurisdiction over this matter.”

Henrikson’s arguments against the county’s credit rights, including a contention that the county waived those rights because it paid the benefits for five years before stopping last year, “are issues that must be addressed” by the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, the judge said.

Contrary to an argument by Henrikson’s lawyers, the judge also ruled that there is nothing in the documents memorializing Henrikson’s settlement with Turbomeca S.A., the French company that manufactured the helicopter’s engine, obligating the county to continue workers’ compensation payments.

Henrikson’s lawyers argued that the county waived its credit rights when it agreed to forgo a claim for part of the Turbomeca settlement money.

Not so, said England.

“The waiver is utterly silent with regard to any impact on separate workers’ compensation proceedings,” he wrote in a 12-page ordered issued Tuesday.

Turbomeca has never publicly admitted liability, but it settled two lawsuits accusing it of supplying a defective part that caused the helicopter to slam into a hillside near Lake Natoma on July 13, 2005.

The company settled with the families of Joseph Kievernagel and Kevin Blount, the deputies who died in the crash, and with Henrikson. The settlement bars the parties and lawyers from publicly discussing its terms, and the amount of money received by the families of the deceased deputies has never been revealed. The amount Henrikson received was disclosed as a result of his suit against the county.

Turbomeca also paid Sacramento County $1.5 million to resolve its suit over various damages alleged to have resulted from the crash.

The incident ended Henrikson’s career in law enforcement. He was 28 at the time and had been with the Sheriff’s Department eight years. He had collected $2 million in workers’ compensation before the county pulled the plug in May on the monthly payments and medical coverage.

Kievernagel and Blount were 36 and 29, respectively, when they perished in the crash.


Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.

Read more articles by Denny Walsh



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