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Injured worker awarded additional work comp benefits due to employer misconduct

A recent workers' compensation case before the California Court of Appeals explored the issue of whether an employee who suffered a serious work injury is entitled to additional compensation because of the "serious or willful misconduct" of his supervisor.

In C.C. Meyers, Inc. v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, an employee suffered serious work injuries when an excavator accidentally drove over his foot while he was kneeling down to push a rock into the excavation around which he was working. Unfortunately, the injury was so serious that the employee had to have his leg amputated below the knee.

When the accident occurred, the foreman helping the excavator driver position shell shoring plates into the excavation was otherwise preoccupied, meaning he had turned his back to the kneeling employee and was waiting for the excavator to return rather than watching to see if the route was clear.

The injured worker applied for and eventually received additional workers' compensation benefits, citing "serious or willful misconduct."

C.C. Meyers Inc. subsequently pursued an appeal of the award of additional work comp benefits all the way to the California Court of Appeals.

Here, the appellate court found that the injured worker was entitled to the additional work comp benefits because the failure to provide a spotter at the excavation site to guide the construction equipment/excavator was tantamount to "serious or willful misconduct."

Specifically, the court found the following:

  • The foreman "turned his mind" to the potential dangers posed by using an excavator without a spotter
  • The failure to use a spotter was contrary to standard industry practices
  • The conditions under which the injured employee and the entire crew were working -- a 13 hour plus workday spent in noisy, confined and increasingly murky conditions brought on by the setting sun -- necessitated proper safety measures
  • The foreman had held a meeting prior to the accident discussing the need for the workers on the excavation site to remain both "alert" and "aware"

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Source:

Risk & Insurance, "Company's failure to have spotter for excavator boosts worker's benefits" March 1, 2012

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