Case name: Ellis v. Verizon New England, Inc., No. 2010-431-M.P. (R.I. 04/12/13).
The Rhode Island Supreme Court held that a technician was entitled to benefits for his injuries resulting from an assault.
What it means: In Rhode Island, the street risk doctrine covers the risk of a random assault by a stranger.
A splice service technician was sent to a job site in a high violent crime area to repair outdoor cable lines. He heard a man yelling across the street. The technician eventually asked the man what his problem was. In response, the man picked up a piece of wood and hit the technician on the head several times. The technician's head wounds required 14 staples. He was also treated for emotional stress. After the attack, the employer sent workers who had to work in the area in pairs. The technician sought workers' compensation benefits. The Rhode Island Supreme Court held that he was entitled to benefits.
It was undisputed that the technician was injured during the period of his employment at a place where the employer might have reasonably expected him to be. The technician argued that being randomly assaulted by a stranger was an actual risk of his employment. The court concluded that his injury was compensable under the street risk doctrine. The court found that being assaulted while on a public road was an actual risk of the technician's employment and he therefore sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment.
The court explained that had the technician been struck be a car, his injuries would have been compensable. The court saw no meaningful difference between being struck by an assailant and being struck by a car because in both instances, the possibility of injury was an actual risk to which workers are exposed if they are required by their employers to travel on public roads. The court pointed out that the specific risks to which a worker may be exposed on the public roadways by virtue of his employment are determined on a case-by-case analysis.
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July 15, 2013
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