Workers' Compensation Case Watch
The Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission recently addressed the “in the course of” requirement in Redleaf v. W&L Mail Service, Inc., JCN. VA00001513936 (June 11, 2019).
The claimant, a bulk mail delivery driver, arrived at the loading dock of a post office. When the claimant got out of his truck, he noticed a large wasp nest above the stairs and wasps flying around. He asked a post office employee to take care of the nest because he did not want to get stung. The post office employee sprayed the nest and spray ran down the walls to the ground. The claimant got a broom to knock the nest down. The post office employee was too short to reach the nest, so he asked the claimant to use the broom to knock it down for him. The claimant jumped up to knock the nest down, slipped on a substance that he believed was wasp spray, and hurt his ankle.
The claimant testified that removing the nest would ensure that there would not be any more wasps flying into the nest for him or other drivers. He explained that the post office employee often helped him unload his truck and he was furthering this relationship by helping him remove the nest. The Commission affirmed the Deputy Commissioner’s finding that the injury arose “in the course of the employment.” The Commission found that the claimant was at a place he was reasonably expected to be, performing an act that would benefit the employer. The Commission said “…the claimant’s actions benefited the employer in two ways, insuring the nest was no longer a threat and in maintaining a working relationship with the post office.”
This case is similar to the facts of another recent Commission opinion; Bell v. II Perrys, Inc., JCN VA0000283966 (April 24, 2019). The claimant in Bell injured himself while performing an activity that was the responsibility of a different employer’s employee. The Commission found that the claimant’s action benefited his employer and that the accident occurred “in the course of” the claimant’s employment.
We are watching these opinions for new trends concerning the “in the course of” requirement.
Jessica Hacker Trivizas is a litigator who focuses her practice on workers’ compensation, defending employers and carriers at the trial and appellate levels. She works with insurance carriers, third-party administrators, and self-insureds. Jessica worked on some of the largest settlements in the country, including the historic NFL Concussion Settlement Program, the BP Oil Spill settlement, and the Reglan/MCP Settlement Program. Her background on these mass claims resolution programs gives her unique insight into the work of claims adjusters.