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Law Firm Playing Hardball on Paralegal's Softball Injury

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By George Khoury, Esq. on April 06, 2018 2:50 PM

It would serve paralegals and other law firm employees well to remember the tale of William Weller, the softball playing paralegal that got drafted, then shafted after he tore his Achilles. Weller's injury required surgery, and put him off work for 3 months.

Weller worked for a law firm that was a bit ball crazy, some might say. In fact, interviewees could expect to be asked whether they played ball. Weller did, and he was hired, and he started playing on the firm's softball team. Unfortunately, Weller was seriously injured. Making matters worse, after his worker comp claim was accepted, on appeal, the state court reversed the decision, effectively denying his claim.

No Worker Comp for Softball

As the state court judge explained, the state's Industrial Accident Board erred in finding Weller's injury was sustained in scope and course of employment. The court relied on the facts that playing on the team was voluntary, and the law firm conferred no financial benefit from the team - there was no advertising, clients didn't attend games, and the firm made no money as a result of the team.

Curiously, as the court notes, the Board supported the decision to grant coverage partly due to the fact that other firm-softball related injuries had been covered. But on appeal, the court explained, as the insurance carrier had, that the prior coverages had been mistakes. It concluded that just because a mistake was made on another person's case in the past, an insurer is not bound to make that same mistake again in an unrelated case.

Intangibles Not Substantial

The court explained that, although the law firm did received substantial intangible benefits related to employee participation on the softball team, intangibles alone are not enough to bring a recreational event within the scope and course of employment. Even though there was rather damning testimony that employees were pressured into playing on the team, participation was not a requirement.

You'd think that getting drafted onto the firm softball team would come with some benefits, like minimally medical coverage, or employer paid Aflac.

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