At the 2015 National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo, Tom Robinson (co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law) presented a session discussing some of the strange cases seen in the workers’ compensation industry this year.
Demperio vs Onondaga County, 2015 NY App. Div LEXIS 2561
- In New York you cannot file a stress claim for witnessing a suicide. The claimant who was a secretary in a doctors office saw a patient jump out a window and die. She was one of the first people on the scene and her boss told her to go get an oxygen tank for the person who jumped. The person suffered from post-traumatic stress from witnessing this accident. The question arose of whether she was a mere bystander. The courts ruled that since she was one of the first ones on the scene she was more than just a bystander and allowed benefits.
Gene Forbes Enters v Cooper, 2015 Va App LEXIS 195
- This was a Virginia claim. Under Virginia law, simple acts such as bending over are not considered compensable incidents. The act has to be particular to the employment. The worker injured her back bending over to catch a container of fries that were falling from a counter. The courts ruled that since her performance was tracked on the speed she performed duties and also on wasted food product this incident was particular to her employment and was compensible.
Simon vs City of Vacaville, Cal WCAB ADJ9174605
- California is not as restrictive as other states when it comes to injuries sustained during recreational activities. In this case, the injured worker was a police officer who was off duty and was going on a hike in the hills with his large dog. The dog started running and pulled the worker down the hill seriously injuring the claimant. The officer pursued workers compensation arguing that maintaining physical fitness was an expectation of their job. The courts denied benefits ruling that the employer did not direct him to engage in this particular activity and therefore it was not compensable.
McDaniel vs Western Sugar Coop. 2015 Neb. App. LEXIS 121
- Two workers work near each other but they really do not know each other very well. The one worker is at home and decides to review the list of registered sex offenders in his area and realizes his co-worker is on the list. When he got to work the next day he attacked the co-worker with a hammer screaming at him that he was a child molester. The injured worker argued that the only relationship between the two was in the job setting therefore this was a compensable claim even though the reason for the attack had nothing to do with the job. The courts ruled that the assault was personal in nature and not related to the employment.
Gonzales v Butterball, LLC, 2015 MO App LEXIS 139
- The worker was lifting an 80lb turkey in the plant and injured his shoulder. He did not speak English. He went to his supervisor and told him he was injured. The supervisor did not speak Spanish. They took him to a clinic and no one there spoke Spanish either. They then took him to a hospital where once again no one spoke Spanish. The worker kept pointing to his shoulder but no one could figure out what was wrong with him. They feared he was having a heart attack. The injured worker was then transferred to a third facility where once-again no one spoke Spanish. At the third facility they decided to do a heart catherization. During that procedure they find nothing wrong with his heart. Eventually they did get a Spanish interpreter and figured out his issue was a shoulder. There were over $20,000 in bills relating to treatment for a heart condition that never existed and the employer denied payment of these bills. The courts ruled they owed payment for these bills as this all arose from the work claim and the misdiagnosis was due to the fact that no one who spoke Spanish communicated with the worker.
Petrik vs JJ Concrete Inc, 2015 SD 39, 2015 S.D. LEXIS 75
- The person was working outside on a hot day. There was a lull in the work activity so six people decided to sit in a pickup truck and run the air conditioning. There was a 7th person who wanted to get in the truck so he told one of the workers in the truck that the supervisor wanted to see him. When the worker who left found the supervisor he realized the co-worker had lied to him. He went back to the truck and started chasing the co-worker who lied to him. The person chasing the co-worker tries to jump over a ditch and ends up severely breaking his leg. The employer denied the claim as horseplay. The court ruled the case was compensable and was not a deviation from employment.
Sims v Marren, 2015 Ohio 2232, 2015 Ohio App. LEXIS 2148
- The employer was having a “kitchen university” event where several co-workers spent the weekend together in a teambuilding event. There was a hospitality building where everyone would go after the training sessions. You had to travel to this hospitality building in a golf cart. Several intoxicated workers decided to drive around town in the golf carts and they were involved in an accident where someone was injured. The injured worker filed a civil lawsuit against the co-worker who was driving the golf cart. The carrier denied the claim under the “exclusive remedy” provision of workers’ compensation. The court ruled both people were in course and scope of employment and that the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation applied.
Meeker v Life Care Centers of America Inc, 2015 U.S. Dist LEXIS 58761
- The employer was a nursing home who decided to have an “active shooter” drill at their facility. They had a police officer acting as the part of the shooter. The officer gets a bit dramatic and bursts into the office puts a gun to a worker’s head and threatened to kill her. The workers did not know this drill was going to happen. The worker gets understandingly upset and files a civil suit alleging intentional injury. The employer defended that this was workers’ compensation and subject to exclusive remedy. The courts ruled the employer could not have summary judgement on the issue of the civil suit and it was allowed to proceed.
Choctaw Resort Development Enterprise vs Applequist, 2015 Miss. App. LEXIS 214
- The person worked at an indian casino located in Mississippi. After working they went with a co-worker to another gaming facility to “scout it” and while there they drank for several hours. They were driving back from the facility and were involved in a car accident. The employer denied saying they were not in course and scope of their employment. The courts ruled this was a compensable workers’ compensation claim because part of this workers job was to gather information about competitors.