5 More Famous Workers’ Compensation Cases
Worker’s Compensation was created in order to financially help people injured on their jobs, such as the warehouse worker that pulls his back muscle while lifting or waitress who slips and falls in the kitchen of a restaurant. It is part of a social safety net that is designed to prevent people from being unable to financially support themselves due to being injured on the job.
Most of the time, the Worker’s Compensation cases go off without a hitch. Employee is injured while on the job, company agrees to pay for his/her injuries via their insurance plan and the employee gets money in the form of a lump sum check or recurring monthly payments. Every now and then, a worker is injured and the company they work for will dispute the Worker’s Compensation case. This is most often attributed to the company feeling that the employee was not eligible for compensation.
Case #1: Construction Employee Breaks Leg While Goofing Off on the Job
This case worked its way all the way up to the Supreme Court of South Dakota, where a construction company was found liable for Worker’s Compensation for an employee who broke his leg while goofing off. It took place on a construction job site. There was a lull in the work for the day and due to the temperatures being hot outside, the workers decided to hang out in an air conditioned truck. One of the workers was not able to get inside the truck due to it being filled with his co-workers, so he tricked one of them by telling them that they were wanted by the supervisor on the other end of the job site. A few minutes later the tricked co-worker came back and began to chase the guy who tricked him. As they were running after each other, the trickster attempted to jump over an open ditch to escape the trickee. He landed wrong and severely broke his leg.
The construction company initially refused to pay the claim, stating that horseplay on a job site was specifically prohibited. A lower court agreed with the company. The plaintiff took the case to the Supreme Court and they ruled that when there are no job duties to perform, there is no work to be abandoned.
Case #2: McDonalds Manager Sustains Neck Injury While Trying to Save a Bag of Fries
A manager at Virginia McDonalds sustained a neck injury due to her accidentally dropping a small bag of French fries as she was preparing the order of a drive through customer. As she attempted to save the bag of fries from hitting the ground, she heard a pop in her neck area and felt instant pain. McDonalds had originally denied the claim, stating that an employee bending over during the course of work (devoid of any awkward body movement out of the norm) does not meet the “arising out of” standard in that state.
The appellate court found in favor of the employee. They stated that the “arising out of” standard was met due to the employee having to twist and turn her body in order to perform her job duty (saving a bag of fries from hitting the ground and going to waste).
Case #3: Employee at Company Function Sustains Major Injuries While Goofing Off.
The employees of a Texas company were required to travel to North Carolina in order to attend a workshop and a few business meetings. The company paid for dinner and drinks of the employees, including the bar tab. At the end of the day, a group of employees began walking back to their hotel rooms when one of them decided to “ride” the escalator rail down to the next floor. Due to being severely intoxicated (as later ascertained by blood alcohol tests performed at the hospital), the employee slipped off the rail and feel to the next floor, sustaining heavy bodily injuries.
The North Carolina appellate court ruled that the claim was within the “well-established” rule that a “travelling employee” would be covered under Worker’s Compensation laws.
Case #4: Painter has a Liquid Lunch and Falls Down an Open Elevator Shaft.
In this case, an appellate court in Utah ruled against a painters claim that he had been injured while on the job. The painter had gone to lunch where he consumed multiple alcoholic beverages. He then returned to the job site where he took a 2 hour nap in a closet. After the nap, he proceeded to fall down an open elevator shaft, sustaining severe injuries.
The court stated that the employee was not furthering the business of his employer when he went to go have a few drinks at lunchtime and therefore was not eligible for worker’s compensation benefits.
Case #5: Performer Shot in Night Club Fight Not Eligible For Benefits.
A stripper in South Carolina was shot after two patrons of the strip club she was dancing at got into a violent altercation. She was shot in the stomach and the doctors told her that she may never have children due to the damage the bullet caused to her uterus. She also claimed that getting shot effectively ended her stripping career as she had massive scarring on her stomach due to the surgeries.
The court found that she was actually an independent contractor and therefore not eligible for benefits. Due to the fact that she did not receive any payment from the strip club (she actually paid the club so she could dance for tips) and due to the fact that she showed up to the club unannounced, she was not an employee.