Golf Outing Injury Falls Under Comp
Curtis v. Lemma, No. CV-12-219 (Ark. Ct. App. 11/06/13)
Ruling: The Arkansas Court of Appeals dismissed a worker’s suit against his coworker, finding that the Workers’ Compensation Commission had jurisdiction.
What it means: In Arkansas, immunity from suit applies to a coworker when the worker’s injury occurred within the time and space boundaries of the employment and when the coworker was carrying out the employer’s duty to provide a safe place to work.
Summary: A worker from Arizona was injured while a passenger in a golf cart operated by a coworker during a game at a sales meeting in Arkansas. The vice president of sales said that the golf outing was a “teambuilding exercise” that benefitted the employer. The employer and its workers’ compensation carrier accepted the injury as compensable under the Arizona workers’ compensation law. The worker sued the coworker in Arkansas. The coworker sought to dismiss the suit, alleging that the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission had exclusive jurisdiction. The Arkansas Court of Appeals dismissed the suit.
The court concluded that the worker and coworker were acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the accident. Although participation in the golf outing was not mandatory, the activity was provided by the employer. The worker and coworker were carrying out the employer’s purpose by participating in the teambuilding exercise. The court noted that the worker’s acceptance of workers’ compensation benefits in Arizona was contrary to his argument that he was not acting within the course and scope of his employment.
The court found that employer immunity under workers’ compensation law could be extended to the coworker. The court said it was logical to conclude that the employer had a duty to provide a safe place to work. The coworker was an “arm of the employer” when he provided transportation within the workplace environment.
One dissenting judge opined that the coworker was not entitled to immunity from the worker’s suit. The judge said nothing about the coworker’s participation in the golf event related directly to providing a safe workplace. Another dissenting judge opined that the worker and coworker were not providing employment services when the worker was injured.