Case name: Zepeda-Cepeda v.
Priority Landscaping and Lawn Care, LLC, No. 2011-UP-229 (S.C. Ct. App. 05/18/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the South Carolina Court of Appeals held that a landscaper was not entitled to benefits for his injury because it did not arise out of an in the course of his employment.
What it means: In South Carolina, a worker engaging in horseplay at the time he is injured is not entitled to benefits.
Summary: A landscaper claimed that his coworker told him their supervisor wanted him to climb a large tree to trim one of its branches. He climbed up to a large branch 20 feet off the ground. He claimed he began walking along the branch when he lost his balance and fell. He sought temporary total disability benefits and payment for medical expenses. The South Carolina Court of Appeals denied benefits to the landscaper.
The coworker and supervisor both said the landscaping company never assigned branch trimming for branches that could not be reached with a pole saw and ladder. They also said the landscaper was not asked to trim branches off the tree. They claimed the coworker offered him a bet that he would not jump off the tree. It was undisputed that the landscaper landed on his feet and limped over to the company's truck, stating he had pain in his leg. The supervisor told the coworker to tell the landscaper that he stepped in a hole.
The landscaper asserted that the supervisor and coworker were not credible because they admitted that they did not initially tell the truth about how he was injured. The court disagreed. It was believable that the supervisor and coworker were afraid they would lose their jobs of the company learned the landscaper climbed the tree on a bet and the supervisor allowed it to happen.
Additionally, the injury did not arise out of an in the course of employment. The company subcontracted out the trimming of tall branches. The court said the evidence showed the landscaper was engaging in horseplay.
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July 5, 2011
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