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Injury from Practical Joke at Work May Allow Tort Action
Description Delaware high court held that when a worker suffers an injury at work from horseplay, and has received workers’ compensation benefits, there may be a cause of action in tort against those who caused the injury depending on conditions at the workplace and how events transpired.
Topic Employment Law
Key Words Workers’ Compensation; Exclusive Remedy; Tort; Horseplay
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Grabowski worked as a pipe fitter and welder for J.J. White Co. at an oil refinery. In violation of company rules against horseplay and practical jokes, three other workers grabbed Grabowski, held him down, and bound him from head to toe in duct tape. He suffered injuries that required several surgeries. He received over $300,000 in workers’ compensation for his injuries. He sued the three workers in tort for his injuries, contending that they occurred from acts that were not in the course of employment. The trial judge dismissed his suit, ruling that workers’ compensation was the exclusive remedy. Grabowski appealed.
Decision Remanded. The trial court must consider certain factors when determining whether the coworkers’ conduct constitutes horseplay such that it is outside the course and scope of employment for purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Act’s exclusivity provision. Factors include: 1) extent and seriousness of the deviation from work; 2) whether the deviation involved an abandonment of duties or was done while involved in work; 3) extent to which such horseplay was an accepted part of employment; and 4) extent to which the nature of employment may be expected to include some horseplay
Citation Grabowski v. Mangler, ---A.2d--- (2007 WL 1969671, Sup. Ct., Del., 2007)

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