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Employee faces reversal in workers' compensation ruling

A workers' compensation ruling was recently reversed in a Nebraska Supreme Court decision. The court declared that the exclusion of one word from the correct standard to apply might be enough to withhold the workers' compensation benefits to an employee who had been injured at a social event organized by his employer. Although the employee's attorney had no comment about the ruling, the counsel for the employer conceded the legal process was not yet over.

The man's employer was hosting a cookout in appreciation of its customers. While attempting to move a grill being used at the gathering, the man fell off the back of a pickup truck and was badly injured. A report on the incident did not give the extent of his injuries but included a statement by his attorney that his disability was total. The attorney also said his client was receiving disability from Social Security but that the amount was nominal.

The original ruling in the workers' compensation proceeding was that the man was in the element of employment at the time of the injury, even though it was a social event. His employer was gaining "a substantial benefit" from the duties he was performing at the cookout. The Nebraska Supreme Court, however, ruled that the criteria required to be met was that his attendance at the social event must have resulted in "a substantial direct benefit" to the employer in order to qualify for workers' compensation benefits. The ball is now back in the court of the workers' compensation court for the correct standard to be applied to the facts of the case.

As the lower court again takes up the case, it's still possible that it could rule the employee is entitled to benefits. Employees in Nebraska have the right to seek workers' compensation benefits when they are injured or become ill while on the job. Many times, workers are asked to handle responsibilities such as those described in this case. It appears the judge will now have to determine if the benefit to the employer of the worker moving the grill at the company customer-appreciation cookout was both a substantial benefit and a direct one.

Source:, "Nebraska High Court Reverses Work Comp Ruling Favoring Employee", Margery A. Beck, July 13, 2015

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