The Commission recently decided that being involved in horseplay at work is not necessarily a bar to obtaining benefits. In Lisa Richmond, Petitioner v. Cambridge House of Maryville, Respondent, 14 IL. W.C. 01857, the claimant was at work when a co-worker kneed her in the back of the leg as a practical joke, causing her to fall and to suffer a leg sprain. The Arbitrator denied benefits, finding that the incident did not arise out of the claimant’s employment and that the co-worker’s prank had nothing to do the claimant’s work.
However, the Commission reversed, noting that the claimant had not been a willing participant in the prank and that “she was on the clock, on Respondent’s premises, waiting to retrieve her lunch pursuant to Respondent’s procedures, when she was excitedly greeted by a co-employee, who was also on the clock, and sustained an injury to her left knee.” The Commission cited case law supporting that the act of obtaining lunch on the employer’s premises is incidental to the employment. Most importantly, the Commission reiterated that an employee who has a practical joke played on them can still recover workers’ compensation benefits. The Commission then quoted the language from Murray v. Indus. Comm’n of Illinois, 163 Ill. App. 3d 841, 516 N.E.2d 1039 (3d Dist. 1987) that establishes that “Illinois permits the nonparticipating victim of horseplay to recover worker’s compensation benefits.”
It is crucial to examine the factual details of every claim in order to assess whether or not it is compensable. Many cases come down to small and easily overlooked facts, such as whether an injured employee was voluntarily participating in horseplay or not. As always, timely and thorough investigation of claims remains the best defense!
Thanks to attorney Michael Bantz for this case law update and if you ever have questions as to whether the facts of a case support an entitlement to benefits or a denial, don’t hesitate to contact us here at Inman & Fitzgibbons!