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The fact that a construction worker was engaged in horseplay when he injured himself does not disqualify him from receiving workers compensation benefits, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled.
In a unanimous ruling on behalf of the injured worker, Jason Petrik, the Supreme Court last week reversed previous rulings against Mr. Petrik by a lower court and the South Dakota Department of Labor.
Mr. Petrik broke his ankle in August 2012 while working as a concrete laborer for Tea, South Dakota-based J.J. Concrete Inc. The injury occurred when Mr. Petrik landed awkwardly in a shallow trench while being chased by a co-worker on whom he had played a practical joke.
The South Dakota Department of Labor denied Mr. Petrik's benefits, ruling that while the injury arose “out of” his employment, it did not occur “in the course of” his employment.
In overturning the decision, the Supreme Court noted that periods of idleness, such as time spent waiting for concrete trucks to arrive on job sites, were an intrinsic part of Mr. Petrik's job and that, despite a company policy forbidding horseplay, it is common in such jobs to relieve the tedium.
“It is undisputed that Mr. Petrik's employment required him and his co-workers to wait while on the job,” the Supreme Court states in its ruling. “The co-workers were all friends and admittedly like to engage in friendly banter and joke together to pass the time. From our review of the record, Mr. Petrik's act of horseplay was not a substantial deviation from his employment and, therefore, occurred in the 'course of the employment.' Therefore, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to the Department for an award of workers' compensation benefits.”
An injured North Dakota driver, who was awarded workers compensation benefits, can’t pursue a civil suit against the trucking company he was under contract with, despite being classified as an independent contractor, the state Supreme Court has ruled.