Holliday v. Tropical Nut & Fruit Co. – Workers’ Comp for Laser Tag

The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the award of workers’ compensation benefits to plaintiff in Holliday v. Tropical Nut & Fruit Co., over objections by employer that worker hadn’t suffered a compensable injury, wasn’t injured in the course of employment and wasn’t entitled to temporary total disability benefits.
According to court records, the injury was sustained while plaintiff was playing “laser tag” at a company-sponsored event in Charlotte. The game was part of a three-day conference and plaintiff’s attendance was mandatory. Normally, he was based in Asheville, but the conference was in Charlotte, and he wasn’t allowed to bring his wife or children with him. He was paid normal salary for his time there.

During the day, the company discussed the previous year’s sales, new products, new sales strategies and offered opportunities to meet with vendors and colleagues in other locations.

On the first day of the conference, the company organized a social event, and employees were divided into two groups: One that would play bowling, and another laser tag. The company paid all expenses for these activities, and employees were assigned to either one game or the other (they didn’t get to choose).

Plaintiff was assigned to laser tag. For 15 minutes as the game progressed, plaintiff, in his 50s, was running up and down ramps, twisting and bending around columns and trying to catch opponents.

In the course of this, plaintiff began to feel sharp pains in his leg. Initially, he tried to ignore it and kept on playing. However, by the end, he informed his manager that his right knee hurt badly. He took off his gaming gear, put ice on his knee and attended the rest of the conference.

He continued to perform his job duties once he returned to Asheville, but the pain in his knee didn’t go away.

About 10 days after that laser tag game, he saw an orthopedist for his right knee pain. Testes revealed he had suffered torn meniscus in two places. Two months later, he had to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to repair those tears. He didn’t miss any work and he was able to perform his duties until the following summer, when he was laid off.

A year after his first surgery, he sought opinion from a second specialist about continued pain. It was then determined there had been cartilage damage and he required a total knee replacement. He was also on restricted work duty.

The knee replacement surgery had a three-to-six-months recovery time.

Plaintiff then sought workers’ compensation benefits. But his former employer argued the injury he suffered in laser tag wasn’t work-related. The North Carolina Industrial Commission and later the trial court and North Carolina Court of Appeals sided with plaintiff.

Although defendant argued this injury didn’t “arise out of employment,” the fact that the outing was supposed to be “fun” and occurred outside the regular job site didn’t change the fact that it was work-related.

What the court noted was:

  • This was an employer-sponsored and paid-for annual conference
  • It had a substantial business purpose
  • It required employees to attend
  • It took record of attendance – including at the “fun” events
  • It scheduled and financed all events

Based on all this, the court ruled the injury was work-related and plaintiff should receive workers’ compensation.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Holliday v. Tropical Nut & Fruit Co., Aug. 18, 2015, North Carolina Court of Appeals

More Blog Entries:
Pastry Chef Settles for $850K After Being Run Over on Way to Work, Aug. 12, 2015, Charlotte Work Injury Attorney Blog

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