Link between job duties, accidental drowning too remote to warrant benefits
Obein (deceased) v. Mitcham Peach Farms, LLC, Nos. 43, 637-WCA, 43, 638-WCA (La. Ct. App. 10/29/08).
What it means: Under Louisiana law, an injury that occurs while an employee is engaged in a social or recreational activity may be compensable if: 1) it occurs on the employer's premises during a lunch or recreation period as a regular part of the employment; 2) the employer has expressly or impliedly required participation in the activity; or 3) the employer derives a substantial direct benefit from the activity beyond improving employee health or morale.
A laborer at a peach farm drowned in a pond on the employer's property after going for an impromptu swim with coworkers. The employees had stopped working for the day because of rain, and the accident occurred a few minutes after they decided to "call it a day." The deceased worker's family sought workers' compensation benefits, arguing that his death was work-related. The trial court granted summary judgment to the employer. The decedent had already clocked out when he went for the swim, and swimming was not related to his task of picking peaches. The Court of Appeal upheld the denial of the claim.
The decedent's supervisor testified that the swimming session was "neither expected nor mandatory" and several employees opted not to participate. Further, no evidence was presented that the employer received any benefit from the employees going for a swim. Finally, the Court of Appeal explained that although the activity occurred on the employer's property, this factor alone was insufficient to connect it to the employment. The decedent's duties on the day of the accident included caring for trees and picking peaches. Swimming was "completely unrelated" to his employment activities. As a result, the accident was not compensable.
December 2, 2008
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