Officer entitled to benefits for after-hours injury at training academy
Case name: Griffith v. City of Miamisburg, et al., No. 08AP-557 (Ohio Ct. App. 12/16/08).
Ruling: The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed an award of summary judgment in favor of the employer city concerning a police officer's claim for workers' compensation benefits. The court held that the officer's injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment and were therefore compensable.
What it means: Under Ohio law, a traveling employee who sustains an injury while engaged in an activity that is consistent with his contract of hire may be covered by workers' compensation. The employee must show from the totality of the circumstances that there was a causal connection between his injury and his employment.
Summary: An Ohio police officer sustained a knee injury while playing basketball during his free time while attending a two-week employer-approved training course. The employer encouraged him to stay at the academy for the duration of the course and would not pay for his lodging or meals anywhere other than at the academy. The trial court found that the officer's injuries did not occur in the course of and arising out of his employment because he was engaged in a purely personal activity at the time of his injury.
The Court of Appeals reversed. It first considered whether the officer's participation in the basketball game after the day's scheduled activities constituted a purely personal errand. It distinguished the officer's continuous presence on the academy grounds from cases where the claimants were injured after leaving the premises. The employer encouraged the officer to remain at the facility, paid for and authorized the training, and benefitted from the skills the officer acquired. The court pointed out that employees do not need to be injured in the actual performance of work duties to be in the course of employment.
The court also found that the officer established a causal connection between his injury and his employment. The academy was where the officer last worked, and the employer had sufficient control over his activities as it encouraged him to remain on the premises and refused to pay for other accommodations.
January 26, 2009
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