Victim of horseplay loses bid to hold coworkers liable for his injuries
The Delaware Supreme Court upheld the trial court's finding that horseplay between coworkers occurred within the course and scope of their employment. Therefore, the trial court properly granted summary judgment to the coworkers in a personal injury suit filed by an employee who was injured during the horseplay.
Case name: Grabowski v. Mangler, Smith and Ziemba, No. 65, 2007 (Del. 09/09/08).
What it means:
Delaware has adopted the Larson four-factor "course of employment" test for determining whether coworkers' conduct constitutes horseplay outside the course and scope of employment. The four factors are: 1) the extent and seriousness of the deviation; 2) the completeness of the deviation; 3) the extent to which horseplay had become an accepted part of the employment; and 4) the extent to which the nature of the employment may be expected to include some horseplay. If the horseplay occurs within the course of employment, a coworker cannot sue his fellow employees for his personal injuries.
Three employees called the claimant to a bathroom and wrapped him, from ankles to shoulders, in duct tape. The claimant was physically injured and also suffered post-traumatic stress from the incident. He sued his coworkers for his personal injuries. The trial court granted summary judgment to the coworkers, concluding that the claimant's sole remedy was through workers' compensation. The Supreme Court upheld the trial court's decision. The coworkers did not deviate from their job duties as they were all "on downtime" when the incident occurred. Further, horseplay had become an accepted part of their employment. Finally, the duct-taping prank was "executed quickly without a significant abandonment by Appellees of their duties." The Supreme Court noted that this was at least the second duct-taping incident involving the claimant and was not far removed from the typical horseplay of employees at the job site.
December 16, 2008
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