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Previous go-cart rulings a no-go in work comp case: Kansas high court

Previous go-cart rulings a no-go in work comp case: Kansas high court

Kansas' Supreme Court has reversed previous legal rulings that found in favor of a worker seeking workers compensation benefits for injuries sustained while driving a go-cart during a company-sponsored event.

Friday's Supreme Court ruling in Danny Douglas v. Ad Astra Information Systems L.L.C. stems from a 2006 accident in which Mr. Douglas, a computer support analyst, crashed a go-cart while participating in team competition.

He suffered a rib fracture, pulmonary contusions, reduced pulmonary function and a lung injury requiring surgery. A court-appointed doctor concluded Mr. Douglas suffered a 15% permanent impairment rating.

But his employer argued the injuries were not compensable because Mr. Douglas was injured while at a recreational or social event he was not required to attend. Ad Astra also argued he was not performing his normal duties while injured.

Mr. Douglas argued, however, that he felt obligated to attend the event designed for workplace team building, and an administrative law judge ruled his injuries were compensable.

On appeal, Kansas' Workers Compensation Board ruled the accident did not occur during a “recreational or social” event, which would have barred workers comp benefits under Kansas law. It found that Mr. Douglas was under “some duty” to attend the event. A state appeals court upheld the board's finding.

But the Kansas Supreme Court found that the board, upheld by the appeals court, applied an incorrect legal standard in the case and said it was unwilling to declare that the action amounted to a harmless error.

It remanded the case to the board, but did so with instructions to consider that “consideration should be given to any evidence which might support that a co-owner (of the company) specifically instructed Douglas to race the go-carts.”