Exceptional reasons require stuntman's wages to be recalculated
Case name: Barrett v. All Payment Services, Inc., et al., No. COA09-541 (N.C. Ct. App. 12/22/09).
Ruling: The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the North Carolina Industrial Commission's decision to use the "exceptional reasons" method to determine a stuntman's average weekly wage.
What it means:
In North Carolina, where there are exceptional reasons making the usual method of computing AWW unfair to the employer or employee, the commission can use another method that will most nearly approximate the amount the injured employee would be earning if it was not for the injury.
Summary: A professional stuntman injured his back performing a car jump stunt. He argued that the commission incorrectly determined his AWW using the "exceptional reasons" method to account for the unusual nature his work. He also argued the commission incorrectly included wages from his other stunt jobs. The commission found that the stuntman's preferred method would make it unfair for the employer to bear the cost. Thus, it chose the exceptional reasons method. The Court of Appeals agreed that the commission chose the correct method to calculate his AWW but determined it erred by including all of the stuntman's other earnings in its calculation. The court remanded the case for the commission to recalculate the AWW without considering his additional income. However, North Carolina law does not specify the correct way to apply the calculation using exceptional circumstances. The court also requested that the North Carolina Supreme Court provide guidance by "suggesting a calculation that would most nearly approximate the employee's earnings before the injury without considering his wages from other employers."
The contractual nature of the stuntman's work meant he had very short periods of very high earnings interspersed with periods when he did not work at all. He argued the commission should have divided the earnings he received by the number of weeks he worked since it was less than 52 weeks before his accident. Using the stuntman's preferred method, his AWW would have been $10,000 for the six-week period. The maximum compensation rate as calculated by the commission was $442, based on an AWW of $1,679.
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January 25, 2010
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