Horseplay isn’t an unusual activity at work. At times, it can even be beneficial for employees to engage in some play, which creates a comradery.
However, sometimes horseplay goes too far and somebody gets hurt.
If someone is injured while engaging in horseplay at work, they can still file a workers’ compensation claim unless it constitutes a “substantial deviation” which effectively “abandons” employment, as ruled in Jaimes v. Industrial Commission of Arizona , 787 P.2d 1103, 163 Ariz. 307 (Ariz. App., 1990).
The test laid out in the Jaimes case states:
“Whether initiation of horseplay is a deviation from course of employment depends on, the extent and seriousness of the deviation, (2) the completeness of the deviation (ie., whether it was commingled with the performance of duty or involved an abandonment of duty), (3) the extent to which the practice of horseplay had become an accepted part of the employment, and (4) the extent to which the nature of the employment may be expected to include some such horseplay.”
(Id. at 309, 787 P.2d at 1105)
In the Jaimes case, the injured worker (Claimant) was riding a three-wheeled utility cart for transporting equipment and personnel on the usual path to the fourth tee of a golf course where he worked as a maintenance person. Two other co-workers were sitting on the two seats and the Claimant was seated on the dash facing the other co-workers.
There was some conflicting testimony regarding whether the Claimant tickled the driver of the cart. Ultimately, the Claimant ended up falling off the cart and was run over, sustaining serious injuries.
The Court held that the Claimant didn’t substantially deviate from his employment. (Id at 307, 787 P.2d 1103)
In the courts’ analysis, they conclude that the extent and seriousness of the deviation wasn’t substantial. This ruling doesn’t pertain to the seriousness of the injuries, but rather the extent of the work departure caused by horseplay.
The horseplay occurred during work-related travel, commingled with the performance of a duty. The Claimant had not abandoned his employment by riding on the cart.
Additionally, the nature of the employment could be expected to include some horseplay because crowding three workers onto a small golf cart was conducive to horseplay, the Court said.
Moreover, to a certain degree the activity was accepted by the employer because the Claimant was never warned not to ride on the dashboard of the cart although other workers were warned. (Id at 310, 787 P.2d at 1106)
What does this mean for your workers’ compensation case?
In conclusion, you may still have a compensable claim if you were engaging in horseplay on the job. However, it will depend on a variety of factors.
Each of these types of cases will be decided based on the totality and degree of these elements such as whether it was common and accepted to engage in certain types of horseplay, whether the horseplay would be characteristic of the work, and if the extent the deviation was substantial and effectively constitutes abandonment of the job.
If your claim is denied, contact us and we can provide you a free consultation regarding the facts and strengths of your case.