Well, since this is the season of spokes and scares, I thought it might be fun if we jump head first into a few real-life scares of real-life workers' comp cases around this great land. All cases happened within this past year just to set the table for all who will be dining with us today! Without further ado, let's get frightened together...
CASE #1: Employee Terrorized in Employer’s “Active Shooter Drill”
Allegations by a nursing home employee that her employer secretly arranged an “active shooter drill” in which an on-duty Carbondale, CO police officer posed as a “gunman,” that the officer burst into the work area and held the plaintiff-employee hostage at gunpoint as she cried and begged for her life, and that only then did the officer tell her in a hushed tone that it was a “drill,” were sufficient to raise an issue of fact as to whether the incident was reasonably incidental to the conditions of the employee’s work. Accordingly, a federal judge refused in relevant part to grant the employer’s motion to dismiss the employee’s civil action against the employer on exclusive remedy grounds.
CASE #2: California Worker at Illegal Marijuana Cultivation Business Awarded Benefits as “Covered Residential Employee”
In a split decision, the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board held that a claimant suffered a compensable injury in the form of T–4 paraplegia and bilateral lower extremity paralysis when he was shot in the chest while working near the home of his purported employer, who operated several marijuana growing businesses, including one at the grower’s residence. Claimant saw an intruder near the grower’s marijuana plants, informed his “employer” of the intrusion, followed the employer back out into the area where the intruder had last been seen, and was shot in the chest. The majority of the WCAB held that even if the employer was engaged in the marijuana growing business illegally, there was substantial evidence that applicant’s primary job duties were incidental to the ownership and maintenance of the employer’s premises. Accordingly, claimant fell within the definition of a covered residential employee under Calif. Labor Code § 3351(d).
CASE #3: Bringing Home the Bacon—Injuries Sustained in Collision With 400-lb. Wild Hog Found Compensable
Substantial evidence supported the Commission’s finding that injuries sustained by a Mississippi casino employee when her car struck a 400-lb. wild hog arose out of and in the course of her employment, held a Mississippi appellate court. The “collision” took place at 4:00 a.m., when the casino employee and her sister were returning home from an Alabama bingo parlor. The employee, an off-property director of player development for the Mississippi casino, had recently moved to Alabama and worked from her home. She contended that at the time of the accident, she was returning from conducting market research of a competing gaming facility—a duty within her job description.
CASE #4: $20,000 in Medical Expenses Ordered Paid by Employer for Simple Muscle Strain Due to Lack of Interpreter
An employer must pay almost $20,000 in medical expenses that resulted when a worker—a U.S. citizen—but whose native language is Spanish and who could not read or write English, could not communicate effectively with medical staff who in turn misunderstood his complaints of chest pain as a cardiac event, rather than minor muscle strain. The worker complained of chest pain after he picked up a turkey weighing some 80 pounds and lifted it onto a tray. Fearing the worker might be suffering a heart attack, medical personnel performed EKG, CPK, and other testing, and eventually transferred the worker to a major hospital for additional tests and medical work. There the worker underwent a cardiac catheterization that showed he had normal coronary articles with normal LV function. After the expensive treatment, the worker returned to work without missing any time and suffered no further complications. The employer refused, however, to pay the medical bills. The Commission ordered them paid and the employer appealed. The court affirmed in relevant part, noting that the employer was immediately aware of the worker’s injury and was not prejudiced.
CASE #5: Employer Saddled With $21,000 Life Flight Bill for Employee’s Cut Finger
An uninsured employer is required to pay $21,201 for Life Flight helicopter services in connection with injuries sustained by a part-time irrigator at the employer’s farm. The employee severely cut the tip of his left “pinky” finger when his hand slipped into the chain of a motor. Following the accident, the employee drove himself to the home of an off-duty police officer, who then called 911. EMTs arrived and made a determination that perhaps the tip of the finger could be reattached. They, therefore, summoned Life Flight. Efforts to reattach the tip later were, however, unsuccessful. The employer contended that the Life Flight trip was a needless expense and that it was not medically necessary. The high court disagreed. The high court acknowledged that with the benefit of hindsight, the decision to fly the employee to the hospital might not have been made. Judging the issue with hindsight was not, however, the appropriate standard. Given the circumstances, the high court said substantial and competent evidence supported the Commission’s decision.
So, as you find yourselves hoping for more treats than tricks in your own workers' comp cases out there, please understand this one thing: This is real life. Real life has real crazy things that happen no matter how good your safety programs are structured. The question is will you and yours be ready when it's your turn to handle a workers' comp case. With Zenjuries, you really can turn tricks into treats.
Happy All Hallows' Day!