Bus driver's aggressive actions before altercation curb benefit claim
Case name: Constant v. South Motors BMW, 16 FLWCLB 13 (Fla. JCC, Miami 2009).
A Florida workers' compensation judge denied benefits to a claimant who was injured in an assault, as the evidence indicated he was the aggressor.
What it means: By initiating a verbal altercation, challenging a person to a fight, and pushing the person, a claimant's actions constitute a deliberate act of aggression, thus barring the claimant from benefits.
Summary: The claimant testified that he was working as a shuttle driver when he was assaulted by a passenger. Relying on the testimony of the passenger, the JCC found the claimant initiated the verbal altercation, told the passenger to get out of the van, threatened the passenger, and pushed the passenger. Based on these findings, the judge determined that the claimant made a premeditated and deliberate attempt to injure the passenger. By performing a deliberate act of aggression against the passenger, the claimant was not entitled to receipt of compensation under Florida law.
The claimant's job duties consisted of driving employees from the main building to the employee parking lot. On the day of the incident, he arrived at the shuttle van and a passenger began yelling at him. The claimant stated that he exited the van and was followed by the passenger, who then grabbed the claimant. The claimant said he pushed him away and they both fell to the ground. The passenger testified that when the claimant entered the van, he asked the claimant to get going, at which point the claimant started yelling at him. After a verbal altercation, the claimant told him if he wanted to make it "personal" to get out of the van. The passenger got out of the van, the claimant pushed him, and they both fell to the ground.
Surveillance video supported the passenger's version of events. In denying benefits, the JCC noted that the claimant's testimony at the final hearing was inconsistent with his deposition testimony, with the altercation as captured on the surveillance video, and with the testimony of several witnesses.
April 9, 2009
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