Workers’ Comp in Assault Cases

By Sarah E. Cavanagh.

The Nebraska Court of Appeals recently held that an employee is not entitled to collect workers’ compensation for an assault perpetrated by another employee if the assault is personal in nature and unrelated to the employment.

McDaniel v. Western Sugar Co-op, the employee, McDaniel, appealed a workers’ compensation court decision to deny benefits. McDaniel was working at Western Sugar Co-op when another employee harassed and assaulted him based on his past criminal history. McDaniel claimed that his injuries should be compensable by workers’ compensation because the injury took place at the workplace and he would not have interacted with the other employee had it not been for the job.

Whether a workers’ compensation claim will be granted depends on whether the injury “arises out of the employment.” This phrase is used to describe the accident – its origin, cause and character. The Court places risks into three categories for purposes of worker’s compensation: (1) Risks associated with employment, (2) personal risks, and (3) neutral risks. In order for an injury of a personal nature to have arisen out of the employment, “the employment must somehow exacerbate the animosity or dispute or facilitate an assault which would not otherwise be made.”

While the injury occurred at the workplace and likely would not have occurred had the parties not worked together, the reason for the incident was personal and not work-related. The assault stemmed from McDaniel’s criminal history, and was wholly disconnected from the place of employment or the parties’ relationship as co-workers. Therefore the Court found that workers’ compensation benefits were properly denied.

© 2015 Houghton Vandenack Williams
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