Workers’ Comp Benefits Paid After Termination

Jan 8, 2018 | Featured, News, Workers' Compensation

By: Jared Renfroe

Melissa Duck v. Cox Oil Co., No. W2016-02261-SC-WCM-WC (Tenn. Workers’ Comp. Panel Sept. 19, 2017)

In this case, the employee clocked in for work but then refused to do her duties requested by her supervisor. She promptly gathered her things and was walking toward the door to leave, and her supervisor asked if she was quitting, and the employee shouted “Yes!” However, she then slipped in a slippery substance on the floor, sustaining injuries which she sought benefits for.

The employer denied the claim and after several appeals, the case ended up at the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Special Workers’ Compensation Panel. The Court noted that this case is one of first impression in Tennessee, and it reviewed cases with similar facts from numerous jurisdictions. It found that the majority of states extend to terminated employees the general principle that an injury sustained while arriving and leaving the employer’s premises is compensable.

An employee who is injured after the employment relationship is terminated but while still on the premises has suffered a compensable injury as long as the injury occurred within a reasonable time after the termination. The Court also noted that Professor Larson’s approach is that compensation is not automatically and instantaneously terminated upon the termination of employment, and rather, a reasonable time to wind up affairs and leave the premises is covered.

After examining these other approaches, the Court held that the injury was compensable because it occurred within a reasonable time after termination and because walking to the door of the convenience store to exit the workplace was a normal incident of the employment relationship. However, the Court did caution that it was not setting the parameters of what period of time is “reasonable,” but stated that in this case, the time was reasonable.

Jared Renfroe focuses on Workers’ Compensation, Premises Liability and Litigation in the Memphis office. Jared has been honored as a recipient of the Mid-South Super Lawyers Rising Stars award in 2016 and 2017, a distinction given to no more than 2.5% of attorneys in Tennessee, for his Workers’ Compensation practice.