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If you ever have to file for workers’ compensation, we hope it’s a straightforward case. Usually, proactive employees can identify potential problems before they get worse – such as growing joint pain – and settle for a payout that covers prescription costs and keeps them working and moving forward in their careers. Claims, however, are not always so simple. In fact, there have been some workers’ comp cases that can only be labeled as bizarre.
A longshore worker, citing the Longshore Act (specifically, “no compensation shall be payable if the injury was occasioned solely by the intoxication of the employee”), filed a workers’ comp claim for damages he suffered after falling over a rail. Unfortunately, the plaintiff was incredibly intoxicated; tests revealed a blood alcohol level of 0.25 – triple the legal limit. He had also consumed some marijuana.
But this did not worry the plaintiff. Focusing on the phrase, “solely by the intoxication of the employee,” the worker sought compensation, claiming the concrete slab caused his injuries. Needless to say, you can’t take the effect and make it the cause; the case was thrown out.
In a similar feat of logic, a lumber mill employee suffered a fatal heart attack and a compensation claim was filed against the employer. Unfortunately, the worker had used false documentation to come to the US from Mexico. His heart attack occurred as he attempted to escape a suspected immigration services raid.
The state considered whether or not the workers were at an increased risk due to potential immigration raids, whether that risk was inherent or incidental, and if it was risk assumed by other employees. The court found the heart attack was not related to the individual’s employment.
Not all bizarre claims end with a rejection. The delivery industry has plenty of issues to contend with; traffic accidents, dog bites, and assault are risks that come with the territory, and they are issues that workers’ compensation laws specifically address. In this case, an employee safely traversed the roads, delivered the goods, and was heading back for his next order when he was engaged in an altercation with a panhandler who was being kicked out of the restaurant. The court emphasized the worker’s version of events, which pointed out he was not looking for any trouble. The delivery person suffered a punctured lung during the tussle and was awarded compensation.
Employees may be assaulted by patrons, robbers, or even other workers on the job. But they usually don’t expect to be involved with a professional assassin.
This issue began when the plaintiff, who suffered PTSD, called a coworker to discuss a work-related issue. However, the co-worker’s husband thought the assistant manager was having an affair with his wife. The next logical step in his mind was to contact a professional to have the man killed. Luckily, the paid assassin plan didn’t work out, however, the husband did reach out to the plaintiff’s supervisor about the suspected infidelity.
The employer then launched an investigation into the issue and attempted to have the assistant manager transferred to a new location. The court found that a connection between the worker’s harassment and the attempted assault intensified the plaintiff’s PTSD, which was grounds for a successful workers’ compensation claim.
We certainly hope any workers’ compensation claims you file aren’t so complicated. Unfortunately, people do crazy things, and businesses do harass employees and otherwise treat them unfairly. When this is the case, you deserve justice. For help navigating the complex workers’ compensation laws in California, reach out to our team of workers’ compensation lawyers in Orange County today.