Sometimes, the question of whether an injury arose in the course and scope of employment is simple because of where it happened or how it happened.
Other times, the issue is more complicated. Perhaps it didn’t happen at the job site or during normal working hours or while worker was engaged in an activity that is supposed to be considered “fun.”
In these situations, where workers participate and are injured during work-related activities outside of their normal, everyday duties, it can be more challenging to secure workers’ compensation benefits.
Case-in-point is that of Holliday v. Tropical Nut & Fruit Co., recently decided by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Here, worker for an organic fruit and nut company was injured while playing laser tag. Yet the state industrial commission – and later the appellate court – affirmed his right to workers’ compensation coverage.
The reason was because of why the worker was playing the game in the first place, and the level of control employer had over that activity.
According to court records, plaintiff was in his mid-50s and was employed in a managerial position. As part of his job, he was required to attend a conference about three hours away from his regular store. Attendance was mandatory at this conference, and employees were not allowed to bring their spouse or children.
The purpose of the conference was to meet new vendors, as well as colleagues in different locations, and also discuss new products, participate in training sessions and consider strategies for the company. There were also some end-of-year awards presented.
While attending, plaintiff was paid his regular salary for his hours of participation, and his other expenses were covered by the company.
On the first night of the conference, the company organized a social event at a local sports center. Employees were assigned to one of two activities: Bowling or laser tag. Plaintiff was assigned to laser tag.
While playing the game, he was twisting, bending, darting back and forth, etc. After about 20 minutes, he started to feel a sharp pain in his leg. He told his manager, sat out for a few minutes, returned to the game and then later told his supervisor of his pain. He iced his knee and, although still in pain, attended the rest of the conference.
After he returned home, a doctor diagnosed him with a torn medial meniscus and a torn lateral meniscus. He required surgery. He didn’t miss work for this surgery and he was able to continue doing his job until he was laid off the following year.
However, the pain in his knee continued and another doctor noted damage to his cartilage. A total knee replacement was required, as was restricted work duty. He was in recovery for six months, during which he could not work. He sought workers’ compensation benefits. His employer denied the claim, asserting his injury was not compensable as it did not arise in the course and scope of employment.
But the commission disagreed, as did the appeals court, finding he was entitled to temporary total disability benefits and coverage of all medical bills.
In weighing the level of control employer had over the activity in which plaintiff was injured, the courts ruled it was significant. In fact, worker was required to attend the laser tag game, and was paid for his time there. The company controlled every aspect of the conference, and thus, the work injury occurred in the course and scope of employment.
For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.