Coworker's cane-shortening prank covered by workers' compensation
Garcia v. Department of Water and Power, et al., No. B222442 (Cal. Ct. App. 01/06/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal ruled that workers' compensation was the exclusive remedy for a worker's injuries resulting from a prank at work.
What it means: In California, a worker injured by a coworker's prank is limited by the exclusive remedy provision of the workers' compensation law.
Summary: A worker was using a cane while recovering from a knee injury. He was trying to wean himself from using the cane and left it at his desk when he walked away briefly. When he next used the cane, he lunged forward and reinjured his knee. He then noticed that the cane had been shortened. The worker suspected that one of three coworkers had shortened the cane and told them it "wasn't funny." One of the coworkers admitted that he was the culprit of the prank. The worker sued the coworkers and his employer. The California Court of Appeal held that the workers' compensation law held the worker's exclusive remedy for his injuries.
The worker argued that he was not limited to the workers' compensation system because his coworker was not acting within the course and scope of employment when he shortened the cane. However, the court said that the worker repeatedly alleged that the coworker was acting in the course and scope of his employment and took part in a prank or joke. The court said that the coworker was not acting within a willful act of aggression. The court also said that the conduct was horseplay, and no matter how rough, thoughtless, or cruel, it was part of the workers' compensation system.
Despite the worker's argument, the court declined to create an exception to workers' compensation exclusivity for "discrimination against the handicapped."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
February 10, 2011
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