Citation. Clodgo v. Rentavision, Inc., 166 Vt. 548, 701 A.2d 1044, 1997)
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Brief Fact Summary.
Clodgo (Plaintiff) was hurt while involved in horseplay at work. Plaintiff sought an award of workers’ compensation.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
An accident occurs in the course of employment when it was within the period of time the employee was on duty at a place where the employee was reasonably expected to by while fulfilling the duties of the employment contract.
Plaintiff was working as a manager of Defendant’s store. During a lull between customers, Plaintiff began firing staples with a staple gun at a coworker who was sitting on a couch watching TV. The coworker protested and after 30 or so staples were fired at him, he fired three staples back at Plaintiff. One of the three staples hit Plaintiff’s eye. Plaintiff filed a workers’ compensation claim. Plaintiff was awarded money. Defendant appealed.
Did Plaintiff’s horseplay bar him from recovery for the resulting injury under Vermont’s Workers’ Compensation Act?
Yes. Judgment reversed.
* Plaintiff was injured during work hours with a staple gun provided for use on the job, and thus the findings support a causal connection between claimants work conditions and the injury adequate to conclude that the accident arose out of his employment.
* Nonetheless, Plaintiff must also show that the injury occurred in the course of employment. An accident occurs in the course of employment when it was within the period of time the employee was on duty at a place when the employee was reasonably expected to by while fulfilling the duties of the employment contract.
* These facts show that the accident was unrelated to any legitimate use of the staplers at the time indicating that there was no commingling of the horseplay with work duties. Although some horseplay was reasonably to be expected during idle periods between customers, the obvious dangerousness of shooting staples at fellow employees and the absence of the connection between duties as a salesperson and the horseplay events indicates the accident occurred during a substantial deviation from work duties.
(Justice Morse) The court has second-guessed the Commissioner’s conclusions rather than doing its duty to affirm the judgment if the facts fairly and reasonably support it.
In this case, the key inquiry is whether the employee deviated too far from his or her duties. It is important to consider (1) the extent and seriousness of the deviation; (2) the completeness of the deviation; (3) the extent to which the activity had become an accepted part of the employment; and (4) the extent to which the nature of the employment may be expected to include some horseplay.