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An employee who violated his employer's instructions to avoid heavy lifting on the job and subsequently injured his back could still receive workers compensation benefits, according to the Supreme Court of Oregon.

Brian Andrews was employed as a plumber's helper. He advised his supervisor about his prior back problems and was told that he should not engage in heavy lifting on the job in the future. While on the job, Mr. Andrews injured his back while helping to carry a 200-pound espresso machine. He filed for workers comp. A referee awarded him benefits, the Compensation Board reversed, finding that his violation of his employer's instructions placed his injury outside the course and scope of his employment. The Court of Appeals affirmed the board decision.

The state supreme court said "it is inescapable that a general rule denying compensation for injuries sustained as the result of a worker's failure to follow an employer's instructions is not compatible with the Worker's Compensation Act." The court was of the opinion that the simple fact of disobedience to an employer's orders is not of such overarching significance that it, alone, can render an ensuing injury non-compensable. The court said the board should have decided the question of compensability by deciding whether Mr. Andrews was engaged in an activity within the boundaries of his ultimate work. The case was returned to the board for further determination of this issue.

Andrews vs. Tektronix Inc., Supreme Court of Oregon, May 9, 1996 (BI/04/J.-$10).

ERISA funds subject to attachment

Funds disbursed from an Employee Retirement Income Security Act plan by cashier's check are subject to attachment, according to a Minnesota appellate court.

Steven C. Noble pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from his employer, Community Bank Henderson. He was ordered to pay restitution. When Noble later requested disbursement of his interest in the bank's ERISA plan, the bank petitioned for an attachment of his benefits. The trial court granted the petition. The bank then issued a cashier's check to Mr. Noble in the amount of $15,972.42, his vested interest less income tax withholding. Upon delivery of the check to Mr. Noble's attorney, a deputy sheriff seized the check and attached it pursuant to the trial court's order.

Mr. Noble appealed, arguing that Minnesota law prohibited the attachment of benefits distributed under ERISA. The court said, however, that ERISA supersedes state law insofar as they may relate to any qualified employee benefit plan.

Community Bank Henderson vs. Noble, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, July 23, 1996 (BI/05/F.- $10)

These abstracts were prepared by Mayo H. Stiegler. For copies of these decisions, send a $10 check payable to Mayo H. Stiegler to Business

Insurance, 740 N. Rush St., Chicago, Ill. 60611-2590. List the number for each opinion.