Gunshot wound from coworker assault not within course of employment
Case name: Doe v. Buccini Pollin Group, Inc. d/b/a PM Hospitality Strategies, Inc., et al., No. 812, September Term, 2010 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 10/03/11).
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that a houseman was not entitled to benefits for his injuries.
What it means: In Maryland, in the case of an injury inflicted by a third party, the injured worker must show that the willful act was directed at him in the course of his employment.
A banquet houseman for a hotel had a disagreement with a coworker over a supply cart. The houseman retrieved the cart from the coworker and touched her hand, and the coworker became enraged, cursing and upsetting banquet tables. The coworker called a friend and told him to come and "take care" of the houseman. When the houseman left work, the coworker and her friend also left. There was a chase at a high rate of speed. When the houseman stopped his vehicle 13 miles from the hotel, the friend shot him, rendering him a paraplegic. He sought benefits. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that he was not entitled to benefits.
The court said that the houseman's injuries did not qualify as an "accidental injury" because the assault was not directed at him in the course of his employment. The court concluded the dispute with the coworker was personal, and the coworker's criminal behavior was not an incident of the houseman's employment. The time, place, and circumstances of the injury in relation to his work showed that the injury was not within the "range of dangers associated with his employment," the court said.
The houseman's claim was also precluded by the going and coming rule. The houseman argued that the "special hazard" exception applied, but the court disagreed because the houseman was not exposed to a risk greater than the risk of the general public.
The court explained that injuries from assaults by a coworker can be compensable, but the assaults usually take place near or at the workplace.
A dissenting judge opined that the injury was compensable because there was a "clear nexus to the employment and the workplace."
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October 31, 2011
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