Workers comp for staff kickball injury?

Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014 12:12 PM
Last updated 9:36 PM
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COLUMBIA -- A man who was severely injured during the company kickball game he organized is entitled to workers’ compensation, the S.C. Supreme Court has ruled.

The justices reversed the Court of Appeals and the state workers’ comp panel in its Wednesday decision.

During the company-sponsored kickball game in 2007, Stephen Whigham jumped and landed awkwardly on his right leg, shattering his tibia and fibula.

“He was taken away in an ambulance and eventually underwent two surgeries. His doctor later informed him he would need a knee replacement in the near future,” according to Wednesday’s decision.

Whigham was the Director of Creative Solutions at Jackson Dawson Communications in Greenville, described in court records as a marketing, advertising, and public relations company.

During a meeting with other company leaders, Whigham came up with the idea of having a company kickball game as a team-building activity, and his superior at the company approved it. Supplies cost the company $440.

The event was called “Ballad Ball” and “paid tribute to the rock ballads of the 80s,” according to court records.

In its decision Wednesday, the Supreme Court focused on whether Whigham’s employer expected him to attend the game.

When asked if he would have considered it irresponsible of him not to show up, his boss replied: “I don’t know. I would have thought—he wouldn’t do that. I’ll just say that. He wouldn’t do that. . . . It would have been just unexpected, unbelievable.”

The court ruled that Whigham is entitled to compensation as a matter of law.

On Wednesday, the decision read, “undisputed facts indicate Whigham’s injury arose out of and in the course of his employment.”

Justice John Kittredge dissented, citing part of a transcript that showed employees received no ultimatum to attend. He said he is “concerned with an analytical framework in the workers’ compensation recreational or social activity arena that favors supervisors over other employees.”

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corgimom 08/27/14 - 01:43 pm
That "team-building" junk is

That "team-building" junk is a pile of BS.

Especially the part where you're supposed to fall backwards and let your fellow employees catch you.

And if you have good sense and refuse to participate in those stunts, you are considered "not a team player".

itsanotherday1 08/27/14 - 01:46 pm
The high court ruled properly

The high court ruled properly IMO. If it was a required activity, he was effectively "on the job". It sounds like a legitimate injury and not gravy train injury like so many I've seen.

I know a guy who has been on that train for a year now. He hurt his back on the job and required surgery. OK, that's cool. However, he is still collecting. He goes fishing all the time; throws horseshoes, golfs, etc., etc. There is a BUNCH of sorry moochers out there.

raul 08/27/14 - 05:14 pm
If the employees were paid

If the employees were paid while they attended the event. No question. This doesn't seem to be a difficult case. Federal cases settled this issue years ago.

Firefall 08/27/14 - 05:25 pm
I always get a kick out of

I always get a kick out of the sensational tag lines the Chronicle puts on their Facebook page for things like this. This ruling doesn't spell the end of company sponsored softball teams. The part that makes it subject to worker's comp is the involuntary piece. If it is even implied that you have to attend an event, it's work and compensable. If it's voluntary (like the after hours softball team), than workers comp won't cover the injury.

corgimom 08/27/14 - 05:28 pm
Itsa, being disabled doesn't

Itsa, being disabled doesn't mean that you are paralyzed and housebound.

And what it all comes down to is that if a doctor says you are unable to work, that's disability.

In fact, doctors encourage back patients to resume their normal activities as much as possible, to aid in healing. Studies have shown that bed rest is the worst possible thing for a back injury and delays healing.

So I'm guessing that your friend is following doctor's orders.

As long as he isn't lifting more than what the doctor says is ok, or doing things that his doctor told him not to do, he's fine.

corgimom 08/27/14 - 05:30 pm
And itsa, I don't know how

And itsa, I don't know how old your friend is.

But if they are older- like me- then yes, a year is a normal amount of time to heal from back surgery.

I know someone who just had back surgery, and received cadaver discs. She's young- 31- and they told her it would take months, if not a year, to heal.

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