By Courtney S. Paterson
Gregory Pope v. Nebco of Cleveland Inc, d/b/a Toyota of Cleveland, et al.
Docket No. 2015-01-0010
State File No. 65681-2014
Filed November 28, 2016
This is a case before the Appeals Board on an interlocutory appeal filed by the employer, and the dispute was whether they require the employer to provide the employee medical benefits and whether the award of attorney’s fees was proper.
The employee alleged suffering a knee injury on August 16, 2014, while participating in a “mud run” charity event sponsored in part by his employer. The employer denied the employee’s claim based upon its belief that he had participated voluntarily. The employee alleged his participation was required and part of his work-related duties. The trial court concluded that the employee’s participation in the mud run was impliedly required and was a part of his work-related duties. The trial court also awarded attorney’s fees.
The Appeals Board held that the trial court erred in finding the salesman’s participation in the recreational event was impliedly required by the employer or was a part of his work duties, pretermitting their consideration of the attorney’s fees issue. The trial court’s decision was reversed, and the case was dismissed.
It has long been the general rule in Tennessee that injuries sustained while an employee is voluntarily engaged in a recreational activity are not compensable as work-related accidents. Indeed, as far back as 1932, the Tennessee Supreme Court observed that “where an employe[e] departs from his work to engage in a sportive act that is in nowise connected with his employment, or incidental thereto, he cannot recover for an injury resulting from such act.” Hawkins v. Nat’l Life & Accident Ins. Co., 46 S.W.2d 55, 56 (Tenn. 1932). However, benefits may be awarded if the activity falls into one or more of the following exceptions:
(A) Participation was expressly or impliedly required by the employer;
(B) Participation produced a direct benefit to the employer beyond improvement in employee health and morale;
(C) Participation was during employee’s work hours and was part of the employee’s work-related duties; or
(D) The injury occurred due to an unsafe condition during the voluntary participation using facilities designated by, furnished by, or maintained by the employer on or off the employer’s premises and the employer had actual knowledge of the unsafe condition and failed to curtail the activity or program or cure the unsafe condition. Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-110(a)(6).
An associate with Spicer Rudstrom since 2009, Courtney focuses her practice on automobile liability, insurance coverage litigation, insurance defense litigation, insurance subrogation, premises liability, products liability, and workers’ compensation. She is admitted to practice in all trial and appellate state courts in Tennessee, as well as the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
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