SC Supreme Court Rules Kickball Injury Falls Within Scope Of Employment



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SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT RULES ON KICKBALL INJURY AND WORKERS COMPENSATION CLAIM
This update brought to you by Workers’ Compensation Attorney David R. Price, Jr.
Good news for those workers in South Carolina who like participating in company athletic events. In an interesting workers’ comp case out of South Carolina, the Supreme Court ruled that an employee who was injured during a company kickball game is legally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
The case was brought by Stephen Whigham and revolves around the issue of what kind of activities that take place outside of the actual workplace are nonetheless covered under workers’ comp insurance. The general rule is that any injury that takes place during the course of a person’s employment is covered. The question in this case was whether a company kickball game qualifies as “in the course of employment.”
In this case, Whigham got the idea of having a company kickball game to improve morale and approached his boss with the plan. His boss told him to move ahead with planning the event and authorized Whigham to spend more than $400 of company funds to host the game. The match took place on a Friday afternoon at 3 o’clock and just around 50 percent of the public relations firm’s employees participated.
During the game, Whigham was hurt when he fell on his right leg. The awkward angle that Whigham landed resulted in a shattered tibia and fibula, injuries that required two subsequent surgeries and an eventual knee replacement to repair.
Whigham thought to file a workers’ comp claim to pay his mounting medical bills, but was denied the first time around. The workers’ comp commissioner held that the injury did not arise out of or in the course of employment because it was not a mandatory event. The ruling was upheld on appeal before the entire workers’ comp commission.
However, Whigham did not give up and took his fight to the South Carolina Supreme Court, arguing that the game was a work function that he was impliedly required to attend since he had proposed and organized the event. As a result of his efforts planning the game, he claimed that the event was within the scope of his employment. Though the game may have been optional for other employees, it was mandatory for Whigham.
The Supreme Court listened to testimony from both Whigham and his boss, which appeared to confirm that Whigham’s participation was expected and not voluntary. The boss explained that had Whigham not shown up to the game it would have been “unbelievable.” He went on to say, “You don’t just plan something and then not show up for it.”
As a result, the Court decided that Whigham felt compelled to attend the game and any failure to do so would have been seen as a dereliction of duty. The kickball game was compensable even though planning such team-building events was not a part of Whigham’s job description. With victory secured, Whigham will now get some much needed financial compensation for his injuries and deserves credit for making it easier for other employees injured in off-site company events to claim workers’ comp benefits.
If you have suffered an injury and you believe it may be job related, I want to help you. Call my office at 864-271-2636 or click the Live Chat button to schedule a free consultation on your case.
Source: “South Carolina: Kickball Injury Covered by Workers’ Compensation,” published at InsuranceJournal.com.
Read the Court’s opinion here: http://sccourts.org/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27440.pdf
Photo courtesy of Greenville Sports and Social Club

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