The widow of a Norfolk police recruit who died from head blows during training cannot pursue a wrongful-death claim against the city, according to a Virginia Supreme Court decision released today.
The justices in a written opinion said that Patricia Kohn, widow of John Kohn, must rely upon the Virginia Worker’s Compensation Act to collect any money from the death. Through lawyers, she had claimed police officers and the city were negligent because her husband was repeatedly struck in the head during “defensive tactics” training in the Norfolk police academy. Over a period of days, John Kohn sustained several head blows in the rigorous training. On the day he died, John Kohn was again hit in the head several times by instructor Leldon Sapp, who was one of several officers named in the lawsuit. John Kohn went into a coma and died days later.
Patricia Kohn filed a wrongful death claim against the city. But a Norfolk Circuit Court judge agreed with the city’s argument that a lawsuit was not the proper path for her claim. The city successfully argued the death was a workplace accident and must be handled through a workers’ compensation claim. Patricia Kohn appealed, and today, the Virginia Supreme Court sided with the city.