Janitor gets second chance to prove tilting vending machine was related to job
Cotton v. Bureau of Workers' Compensation, No. 24043 (Ohio Ct. App. 01/28/11).
Ruling: The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment to an employer on a janitor's workers' compensation claim. The court sent the case back to determine whether the injury arose in the course of employment.
What it means: In Ohio, an injury is compensable if it is sustained while the employee engages in activity that is consistent with his job duties and related to the employer's business.
A janitor began working in the break room, as he normally did. A coworker asked if he could help retrieve some potato chips that had gotten stuck in the vending machine. As the janitor and a security guard pushed the machine, the janitor heard a pop in the back of his foot and felt pain. The two men tilted the machine, and the chips fell down. Immediately after the incident, the janitor was able to walk on his foot, but he soon had to call his supervisor to take him home. He exchanged his tennis shoe for a boot and returned to work. After trying to treat the injury himself for four weeks, he could not walk and underwent surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon. The trial court found that the janitor was not acting within the course of his employment when he was injured. The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed and sent the case back to determine whether the injury arose in the course of employment.
The court said there were genuine issues regarding whether his actions in assisting the coworker were related to his contract for hire and were logically consistent with the employer's business. The court noted that the actions were not horseplay and the janitor was simply trying to help a coworker.
The court also said there was a genuine issue of whether the janitor's presence at the scene created a benefit to his employer. The janitor argued that assisting the coworker benefitted the employer by improving employee relations. He stressed that he was not on a personal break, and he regularly moved furniture as part of his employment.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
February 28, 2011
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