North Carolina: Injuries Sustained Returning From Holiday Party Were Not Compensable

North Carolina: Injuries Sustained Returning From Holiday Party Were Not Compensable

Affirming a decision by the state's Industrial Commission, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina has denied benefits to two technical support analysts in the State Highway Patrol who sustained severe injuries in an automobile accident as they returned to the SHP office from a holiday luncheon.  Hosted by the employees' supervisor, the luncheon's purpose was "to celebrate the department's hard work." Attendance was voluntary.  Utilizing the "six-factor" test set forth in Larson's Workers' Compensation Law, the appellate court stated that the remedies provided under the state's Workers' Compensation Act did not apply to all injuries that may be suffered by an employee, but only to those injuries which are caused by accidents "arising out of and in the course of the employment.  Particularly important to its decision, indicated the court, was the sixth factor: that for a social event to be considered a benefit to the employer, the benefit must not be "merely in a vague way through better morale and good will, but through such tangible advantages as having an opportunity to make speeches and awards." While three SHP supervisors gave brief remarks at the luncheon, there was testimony that the remarks "did not rise to the level of a speech."  No awards were given.  Nor could the employees be considered traveling employees, concluded the court.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

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See Graven v. N.C. Dep't of Public Safety-Division of Law Enforcement, 2014 N.C. App. LEXIS 811 (July 29, 2014) [2014 N.C. App. LEXIS 811 (July 29, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 22.04 [22.04]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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