Employee may seek comp benefits for neck injury during company outing
Case name: Kelley v. Ryan and Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc., No. CA2009-07-104 (Ohio Ct. App. 04/05/10).
Ruling: The Ohio Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision that the claimant was entitled to participate in the workers' compensation system for injuries he sustained while at a company outing.
What it means: An employee who is injured in Ohio while engaging in horseplay is entitled to participate in the workers' compensation system if the horseplay was commonly carried on by employees with the knowledge and consent or acquiescence of the employer.
Summary: An account manager with Coca-Cola attended a mandatory corporate kick-off event to celebrate the company's release of its new product, Coca-Cola Zero. The employer encouraged all of the employees who attended the event to canoe down a three-mile stretch of a local river. After canoeing, the claimant walked up the embankment to wait for a bus to take him back to his vehicle. Two managers tried to pull him down the embankment and into the river as part of the fun, but they were unsuccessful. One of the managers then grabbed him and slammed him to the ground, causing injury to his neck. A jury entered a verdict in his favor, deciding that he was entitled to participate in the workers' compensation system for his injury. The Court of Appeals upheld its decision.
The court rejected the employer's contention that the jury was given incorrect instructions regarding an employee's entitlement to workers' compensation benefits when horseplay is involved. It explained that even if an employee instigates or participates in horseplay and that horseplay proximately causes an injury, he is nevertheless entitled to workers' compensation coverage if the employer was aware of or acquiesced in the horseplay. The jury instruction was therefore correct.
The court also rejected the employer's argument that a physician's videotaped deposition testimony had to be excluded in its entirety because the physician mistakenly testified that the claimant was treated by a neurosurgeon when, in fact, he was not. The court concluded that the doctor's mistake did not make his entire testimony unreliable.
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June 14, 2010
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