South Carolina Supreme Court Broadens The Scope of Covered Workplace Injuries

Under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation rules, employees are covered for any injury that happens while doing their jobs. This can include injuries that happen outside of normal worksites or outside of normal working hours as long as the injuries are directly related to job duties. kickball-606231-m.jpg

Sometimes, it is not clear whether a specific instance of getting hurt at work should entitle an employee to workers’ compensation benefits., for example, recently discussed as case in which the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that injuries that occurred during a voluntary kickball game were covered. This decision broadened the definition of what counts as an injury within the scope of employment.

More Workplace Injuries May Be Covered for South Carolina Employees

The case addressing the kickball injuries was called Whigham v. Jackson Dawson Communications and Hartford.

The person who was injured was responsible for organizing a “voluntary” kickball game for fellow employees. He was a manager at the company and he attended bimonthly meetings with other managers. At these meetings, the importance of team-building events was emphasized. He proposed the idea of organizing a voluntary kickball game for his employees and his superiors agreed that it was a good idea. They asked him to organize it and authorized him to spend $440 of company money to rent a facility and to provide tee-shirts and snacks. The company intranet was used to promote the event, which was attended by around half of the employees in the company.

Because the event was voluntary, typically an injury would not be covered for injuries that happened at the game. However, the question in this case hinged upon whether the injured victim was obligated to attend the game because he had organized it. Courts in South Carolina generally consider three tests in determining whether a work-injury at a recreational or social event falls within the scope of employment or not:

  • Whether the injury occurred on the premises during a recreation period that was a regular part of employment.
  • Whether participation was expressly or implicitly require.
  • Whether the employer derived a substantial and direct benefit from the activity, beyond simply the intangible benefits of improving worker health and morale.

Initially, the workers’ compensation insurer denied the victim’s work injury claim since attendance at the kickball game was voluntary. Both the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission and the South Carolina Court of Appeals agreed that a denial of workers’ comp benefits was appropriate.

The Supreme Court, however, found that the situation met the standard of impliedly required because the employee was “made to understand” that he was supposed tot make part in the event. Testimony from the victim’s supervisor indicating that the supervisor would have been shocked if the organizer had not attended provided credence for the victim’s claim that he had to go to the game.

Contact the South Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

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Estrada v. Timber Structures et al. – Lapse in Work Injury Insurance Coverage, Nov. 28, 2014, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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