Workers’ Compensation Review: News of the Weird

As any workers’ compensation attorney can tell you, sometimes people are injured in some very interesting ways. The most intriguing aspect of odd injury cases is the fact that they are sometimes compensable. The following is a review of some of the more interesting workers’ compensation cases to come out of courts in California and beyond, and should serve as a reminder that the workplace is a very dangerous place indeed.

My Hero, or How One Man Took on the Vending Machine, and Lived

Few things are more dangerous to the health of Americans as processed junk food, or so some say. I would offer up a story out of Illinois as evidence that the actual snack machine is more of a threat. According to legal documents, a Circuit City employee named Clinton Dwyer was a man who could not stand idly by and allow the office snack machine to deny his coworkers the right to enjoy a bite to eat with their break. Dwyer leapt into action after the nefarious machine refused to let go of a tasty treat. Unfortunately for Dwyer, he fought the machine and the machine won when he was knocked to the ground with a broken hip. The most surprising part of this story, however, is not the sheer determination of hungry employees, but the fact that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and state appellate court found his injury to be compensable. They disagreed as to whether it was due to the personal comfort doctrine or the good Samaritan doctrine, but the end result was that the employer’s insurer had to pay for treatment.

Chasing Windmills

The final case is from 2013 out of Ohio involving an argument over what constitutes horseplay in the workplace. Specifically, an employee was casually walking down the hallway at work when she and a coworker collided, causing her to fall to the ground and suffer an injury. As the injury happened in the workplace, naturally the injured employee filed a workers’ compensation claim. This was no everyday coworker collision, however, as it was found out that the injured employee had been casually walking down the hallway while swinging her arms like windmills. According to her coworker’s testimony, the injured employee often walked down the hallway like this and so he was merely trying to block her swinging arms when she was knocked to the ground. Since horseplay generally acts as a bar to receiving workers’ compensation benefits, it is understandable that an injured worker would be creative, but the Ohio court thought differently.