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Injured worker can't sue co-worker who drove golf cart in crash

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A worker injured in a golf cart crash at an offsite company event cannot sue the co-worker behind the wheel at the time, an Ohio appeals court has ruled.

In an opinion published June 5, the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Ottawa County denied an appeal by the injured worker, Meredith Sims, stating that the broken ankle and facial injuries she suffered occurred during “the scope and course of employment” and are only compensable under the workers' compensation statutes.

Ms. Sims was hurt on Sept. 9, 2008, while at a management retreat convened by her employer, Louisville, Kentucky-based Texas Roadhouse Corp. The event, known as “Kitchen Managers University” was held at the Island Club resort on the island of Put-in Bay, Ohio, where golf carts are the primary mode of transportation. While bar hopping with co-workers, Ms. Sims suffered an open fracture of her ankle when the golf cart she was riding in hopped a curb and landed on her, according to court documents.

A self-insured employer for workers compensation purposes, Texas Roadhouse certified a workers compensation claim on Ms.Sims' behalf and compensated her for medical treatment and lost wages attributable to the accident.

According to the lawsuit Ms. Sims filed in 2013, the co-worker driving the cart, Tabitha Marren, had consumed somewhere between four and six beers and one shot of liquor during the evening. The lawsuit alleged negligence on behalf of Ms. Marren and Texas Roadhouse as well as the owners of the cart rental company, Edgewater Investment Group Inc., and S.B. Delaware Cart, L.L.C.

The appeals court agreed with the trial judge that the injuries Ms. Sims suffered occurred in the course of her employment.

“The undisputed evidence establishes that Texas Roadhouse not only consented to or acquiesced in the consumption of alcohol and the use of carts to provide transportation between the resort and the bars, it encouraged such conduct,” the ruling states. “As such, Texas Roadhouse consented to and acquiesced in Marren's conduct, leading us to the inevitable conclusion that Marren's conduct was in the course of and arising out of her employment with Texas Roadhouse. She is therefore entitled to immunity against Sims' suit under R.C. 4123.741.”