Pizza delivery driver wins benefits for injuries sustained in altercation
Case name: Big Tomato Pizza v. Cloud, No. 2-1199/12-1291 (Iowa Ct. App. 02/27/13).
Ruling: The Iowa Court of Appeals held that a driver was entitled to benefits.
What it means: In Iowa, a worker's injury while performing his work duties arises out of and in the course of his employment.
A pizza delivery driver was returning to the restaurant from delivering a pizza when he heard a commotion coming from the front of the restaurant. He saw a man being chased out of the door and happened to step in the way. The man struck him, and the two had a scuffle. The driver had difficulty breathing after the incident. He was diagnosed with a small puncture wound to the left side of his chest and a collapsed lung. He continued to have pain in his chest and difficulty lifting his arm above chest level. The driver sought workers' compensation benefits. The Iowa Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to benefits.
The restaurant argued that the driver deviated from the course of his employment by voluntarily engaging in an altercation away from the restaurant. The court disagreed, finding that the driver's injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. The court said that the driver was performing a work duty at the time he was injured. He returned from delivering a pizza and walked into an incident already taking place.
The restaurant also argued that the driver willfully intended to get into a fight and the man wanted to injure the driver for personal reasons. The court disagreed. Although the driver's coworker said that he was chasing the man because he wanted to get into a fight, the worker's compensation commissioner did not find the driver had the same motivation. Also, the court did not find evidence that the man struck the driver as a result of a relationship between the two that originated outside of work. The man struck him because he happened to get in the way.
The court concluded that the driver had a 10 percent industrial injury. An independent medical examiner recommended that he lift pizzas at or above shoulder height only on an occasional basis. The examiner noted that the driver described symptoms suggestive of post-traumatic stress disorder. The court ordered the restaurant to pay for a mental health evaluation of the driver and treatment if it was recommended.
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June 17, 2013
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