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Sheriff's deputy cannot collect workers compensation for charity golf injury


ST. LOUIS—A former St. Charles County (Mo.) deputy sheriff cannot collect workers compensation for an injury he sustained while playing in a charity golf tournament, a Missouri state appeals court ruled.

Scott Beine, a deputy of the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department from 1997 to 2009, had sought to overturn prior decisions by state labor officials denying his claim against the department for workers compensation.

According to court documents, Mr. Beine was struck in the head with a golf ball while playing in a 2008 charity tournament hosted by the St. Charles County Deputy Sheriff's Assn., “a voluntary, nonprofit association of deputies whose primary purpose was to raise money for charity and help those in need.”

After the initial injury, Mr. Beine was treated for several continuing symptoms, including tinnitus, poor balance, memory loss, severe and frequent headaches, insomnia, mood swings and depression. He was never able to return to full-time duty with the department and was fired in January 2009.

Mr. Beine submitted a claim against the department for workers compensation in November 2008 but was denied by an administrative law judge representing the state's Division of Workers Compensation. He appealed the decision to the state Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, which also denied his claim.

In their unanimous decision on Dec. 6, the appellate judges upheld prior rulings that Mr. Beine's injury had not occurred in course of his normal duties as a deputy of the county, but rather as a willing and voluntary participant in the tournament.

“The sheriff's department did not participate in either planning or promoting the golf tournament,” presiding Judge Patricia Cohen wrote in the court's decision. “Participation in the golf tournament was voluntary, and (the department) required its employees to use compensatory or vacation time to attend the tournament.”

Judge Cohen also noted that the department did not even permit employees to wear their uniforms or use their police cruisers for transportation to the event.

In his appeal to the commission, Mr. Beine had argued that his participation in the tournament qualified as a compensable work-related activity in that it ultimately benefited the department. The commission rejected the argument, noting that none of the witnesses testifying for Mr. Beine had provided any demonstrable, direct link between his playing golf and the department's community policing operations.