Missouri: Golf Ball Ends Sheriff’s Career

Missouri: Golf Ball Ends Sheriff’s Career

While playing golf at a charity event, a stray golf ball struck claimant in the forehead.  His employer terminated him about 6 months later. Claimant states he was disabled due to problems with tinnitus, poor balance, memory loss, severe and frequent headaches, insomnia, mood swings and depression.    The court of appeals affirmed a 2-1 decision denying benefits and found the accident did not arise out of and in the course of employment in Beine v County of St. Charles, No. ED 96581 (Mo. App. 12-6-2011). The court declined to address whether statutory reform abrogated prior case law applying to the mutual benefits doctrine.

Claimant failed to prove that his injury arose from a hazard related to employment in which claimant would not have been equally exposed in a normal non-employment life if he was on a golf course. Voluntary recreational activities are excluded by § 287.120.7.  Claimant does not contend any of the three statutory exceptions apply:  the employer did not order him to golf; the employer did not pay wages or travel, nor was the employer aware of an unsafe condition on its premises that contributed to the accident. Claimant used his own vacation time, the employer did not plan the event, and the employer had no right to control claimant’s actions.

The court found no mutual benefit to the employer, the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department. The proceeds from the golf tournament sponsored by a separate entity, the St. Charles County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, supported an annual shopping event, Shop-With-A-Deputy, in which members of the Sheriff’s Department used their patrol cars and wore their uniforms.   Officers could drink at the golf fund-raiser but could not wear official uniforms.   The court found testimony a sheriff credible that the tournament did not benefit the Employer.  Claimant contended its evidence on mutual benefit was not rebutted or sufficiently impeached.  Claimant offered testimony from an associate professor in the Department in Criminal Justice and Criminology from a state school in Kansas City. The administrative law judge found the expert’s conclusions were neither probative nor reliable. 

Source: Martin Klug, Huck, Howe & Tobin. Read Martin Klug's Mo. Workers' Comp Alerts.

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