Accent Signage Case: Wrongful Death or Workers’ Compensation Claim?

An April 22 hearing was conducted to determine whether the wrongful death lawsuit a family filed against Accent Signage Systems should be thrown out or not, as it could possibly fall under Minnesota workers’ compensation.

The focus of the hearing was whether or not Andrew Engeldinger gunned down Jacob Beneke. The question is whether he Beneke was gunned down due to a personal vendetta or because Beneke was in the line of fire during a shooting rampage in September 2012.

Beneke’s widow and mother sued Accent Signage in February, but company attorneys have argued that the case should be dismissed because the death falls under the Workers’ Compensation Act, which applies to cases of death that come about due to an employee’s job.

An Accent attorney said that the men were in the scope of their employment when the shooting occurred, asking that the judge dismiss the case.

Beneke, a 34-year-old graphic artist working for Accent Signage, was one of six individuals shot by Engeldinger after he was fired from his job. After the rampage, Engeldinger killed himself. The owner of Accent was also killed in the shooting.

Beneke’s family argued that the signage company was negligent, citing the shootings as a foreseeable event based on past incidents with Engeldinger. In the past, he had been disciplined for employment misconduct and he was known to be abusive and violent. The Engeldinger estate is also a defendant in the suit.

The attorney representing the Beneke family said that Beneke’s death falls under exceptions to the Workers’ Compensation Act, including if the death occurred due to personal reasons. He argued that Engeldinger was referred to as Beneke’s nemesis and, on the day of the shooting, he drove a different vehicle to work just in case Engeldinger went off the deep end, knowing that Engeldinger was going to lose his job that day.