A school resource officer for a county sheriff's department was an active member in a voluntary, nonprofit association of sheriff's deputies whose primary purpose was to raise money for charity and help those in need. The association sponsored a charity golf tournament to raise money for Christmas gifts for needy families. The county did not participate in planning or promoting the golf tournament. Participation in the golf tournament was voluntary and county workers were required to use compensatory or vacation time to attend. The county did not allow its workers to wear their uniforms or use county vehicles for transportation to the event, at which alcohol was served.
The officer helped set up and then golfed in the tournament. While he was playing, a nearby golfer hit a ball that struck him in the forehead. He was transported to the hospital and treated for a laceration and subcutaneous contusion. Later, he sought treatment from numerous medical professionals for continuing symptoms, including tinnitus, poor balance, memory loss, headaches, insomnia, mood swings and depression. He was unable to resume work and was terminated.
The officer sought workers' compensation benefits. The administrative law judge denied benefits on the grounds that the injury did not arise out of and in the course of his employment. The Labor and Industrial Relations Commission affirmed the denial of compensation. The officer appealed.
Was the ALJ correct in finding the officer was not entitled to benefits?
A. Yes. The golf tournament was a recreational activity and did not arise out of or in the course of the officer's employment.
B. No. The officer's participation in the charity golf tournament benefitted the county.
C. No. The officer's injury resulted from a hazard or risk related to his employment.
How the court ruled: A. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the officer was not entitled to benefits. Beine v. County of St. Charles, No. ED96581 (Mo. Ct. App. 12/06/11).
The court said that the golf tournament was a recreational activity. The officer's participation in the tournament provided no benefit to the county. The court pointed out that golfing was not one of the officer's assigned duties. The county did not plan or promote the tournament and required its workers to use vacation days to participate. Also, the county did not receive or control the proceeds of the tournament. The county and association were separate and independent entities.
B is incorrect. The court explained that the officer's supervisor said his participation in the tournament provided no benefits to the county. The officer's witness testified that the tournament benefitted the county. The court said the witness lacked credibility because his testimony focused on the shopping event, rather than the golf tournament, and his opinion was "based on gross generalities regarding community policing."
C is incorrect. The court explained that the officer's injury resulted from a hazard or risk unrelated to his employment to which he would have been equally exposed on any golf course in his "normal nonemployment life."
Editor's note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.
January 19, 2012
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