The courts hear millions of workers compensation claims every year. People are clumsy, employers get lazy, sometimes, and accidents really do happen through nobody’s fault. Some people file claims for some pretty crazy reasons. Let’s get into the who, what, injury and judgment of some of the most bizarre claims ever filed.
#1 Spider Nightmare Injury
Who: A firefighter for the City of Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
What: The man was required to work 24-hour shifts, which meant that he had to sleep at the firehouse during his shifts. He was asleep and had a nightmare about spiders, which caused him to jump out of bed.
Injury: A fracture of the long bone on the side of his foot that connects to his little toe.
Judgment: The initial claim was denied because the nightmare that caused the firefighter to jump out of his bed was not work-related. He filed an appeal, and the original ruling stood.
#2 Vending Machine Injury
Who: A Circuit City employee
What: An employee of (now-defunct) Circuit City was trying to get a bag of chips from the vending machine, but they didn’t drop. A co-workers stepped in to help by shaking the machine and he fell, landing on his hip.
Injury: His X-rays showed he had a partially displaced fracture of his hip. He needed surgery and a bone graft to treat his injury.
Judgment: The court decided that the man’s injury occurred during the course of employment, and he received appropriate benefits.
#3 Falling From a Tree
Who: A pipefitter in Mississippi
What: The pipefitter and his co-workers were on break, talking about the way they used to climb trees when they were kids. So, naturally, they tried to climb one. One of the men made it down safely, but the branch snapped beneath the other man and he fell 25-feet.
Injuries: Cracked right shoulder blade, five broken ribs, and a spinal cord injury which required surgery. After the surgery, he needed physical and occupational therapy.
Judgment: The court ruled that the injury did not occur while the claimant was performing his job, so the claim was denied. It was rejected again upon appeal.
#4 Tripping Over a Dog
Who: An Oregon woman who worked from home
What: The woman was at home working and got up to get office supplies from the garage. On her way, she tripped over her small dog.
Injury: Various slip-and-fall injuries
Judgment: The woman’s claim was denied because the employer had no control over the woman’s dog. The appellate court stated that it was true that the employer had no control over the woman’s dog, but they did have control of where the woman worked. Had they required her to work on the employer’s premises, the injury never would have occurred. The case was remanded.
#5 Fake Robbery
Who: A female clerk in California
What: A man came into the woman’s workplace wearing a ski mask and a note demanding money. The woman reached for the silent alarm, and the man slammed his hand on the note. It turned out that the man wasn’t a robber; he was her employer’s district quality manager performing a security exercise.
Injury: Emotional trauma
Judgment: A jury awarded the woman $360,000. A trial court in California ordered a new trial, and they ruled in the woman’s favor.
#6 Fight With a Panhandler
Who: A pizza delivery man in Iowa
What: The delivery driver was involved in a fight with a panhandler when other employees from the restaurant chased him out of the establishment.
Injury: A punctured lung
Judgment: The employer claimed that the injury occurred because the employee was looking for a fight, and the claim was denied. On appeal, it was proven that the employee was injured while trying to perform his job, and his claim was approved.
#6 Falling On a Cement Slab
Who: A longshoreman
What: After drinking and smoking marijuana, the claimant fell over a railing while relieving himself, landing on a cement slab.
Injuries: Multiple injuries related to a fall
Judgment: His toxicology screen showed alcohol and drugs in his system, and his claim was denied.
How would you have judged in each of these cases?