Personal nature of clash unravels family's claim for death benefits
Case name: Gomez v. State of Wyoming, ex rel., Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division, No. S-09-0226 (Wyo. 05/25/10).
Ruling: The Wyoming Supreme Court upheld the denial of workers' compensation death benefits to the family of a worker who was shot and killed by his brother.
What it means: Wyoming law excludes from the definition of "injury" any injury that occurs while the employee is engaged in recreational or social events that the employer did not require him to attend, and where the injury was not the result of the employee performing his normal job duties or a task the employer instructed him to do.
Summary: The decedent and his brother were Peruvian nationals working legally in the United States as sheepherders. They shared a residence that the employer provided for them on the ranch and were on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. One night, after drinking beer for hours, they got into a fight at their residence over the amount of money the brother was sending back to Peru for his family. The brother grabbed the rifle they used for predator control and shot the decedent in the back, killing him instantly. The Supreme Court upheld the finding of the District Court and Office of Administrative Hearings that the decedent's death did not arise out of his employment because he was engaged in recreational or social events at the time. As a result, the decedent's family was not entitled to death benefits.
The court said that although the decedent was, in a general sense, where he was supposed to be at the time of his death, "he was engaged in activities which had nothing to do with his normal job duties nor was he doing anything his employer instructed [him] to do."Further, the dispute with his brother had nothing to do with their employment but was due to "personal animosity" between them.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 16, 2010
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