Court Says Horseplay Victim Should Get Workers’ Comp

January 18, 2011 ( – Virginia’s Supreme Court has found that a worker injured when coworkers were throwing ice should get workers’ compensation benefits.

Business Insurance reports that the court used the horseplay doctrine, which says an innocent victim of on-the-job horseplay is entitled to workers comp benefits.  Reversing a court of appeals ruling that there was no connection between Matthew Edward Simms’ employment conditions and the ice attack, the high court applied an “actual risk test,” in which an injury falls within workers comp law “only if there is a causal connection between the employee’s injury and the conditions under which the employer requires the work to be done.”  

According to Business Insurance, the court also relied on a theory of recovery, which has found that joking actions of co-workers are a risk of employment because humans are playful and from time to time engage in pranks, which can be dangerous.  The case was remanded to a lower court for a finding consistent with the state Supreme Court’s opinion.  

Simms suffered a dislocated shoulder when he lifted his left arm to protect himself from pieces of ice thrown by co-workers, court records state, according to the news report. A deputy workers comp commissioner concluded that Simms was entitled to temporary total disability, but that the surgery he underwent later was not related to his work injury since, prior to his injury at work, Simms had dislocated his shoulder several times.   

In 2009, the Virginia Court of Appeals agreed with a Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission ruling overturning the deputy commissioner’s decision allowing for temporary total disability benefits, finding that even though Simms was an innocent victim of horseplay, there was no connection between his employment conditions and the ice attack.   

The case is Matthew Edward Simms vs. Ruby Tuesday Inc. et al.