Injury not in Course/Scope of Employment

Injury not in Course/Scope of Employment

Posted: February, 1998

Stivison v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (12/31/97), 80 Ohio St.3d 498.

Issue: When a worker suffers an injury due to an assault away from the workplace which occurred because of actions at work entitled to participate?

Background: McCormick, a fellow employee, assaulted Stivison in a restaurant parking lot. The assault took place after Stivison responded truthfully to a supervisor’s question as to the McCormick’s whereabouts. McCormick had left the plant, but had not punched out. He received discipline for this absence with a suspension. Upon his return, McCormick told another employee that he was going to get Stivison. It was common knowledge that Stivison went to this restaurant to cash his paycheck and bring food back to the third-shift workers. The issue is whether the assault was an injury received in the course of and arising out of his employment.

Decision: Supreme Court (4-3) found Stivison was not entitled to workers’ compensation.

The Supreme Court said that “in the course of” involves the time, place and circumstances of the injury and “arising out of” involves the causal connection (citing Fisher v. Mayfield (1990), 49 Ohio St.3d 275). An injured worker must satisfy all elements to receive workers’ compensation. The Supreme Court held that Stivison’s injuries did not occur “in the course of” his employment because they did not occur during work hours, at his place of employment, or while he was fulfilling work duties.

The Court also found that Stivison’s injuries did not arise out of his employment. The Court said that there was not sufficient causal connection based on the totality of circumstances test in Lord v. Daugherty (1981), 66 Ohio St.2d 441. The totality of circumstances test includes (1) proximity of accident to place of employment, (2) degree of control the employer had over the scene of the accident and (3) the benefit the employer received from the employee’s presence at the scene of the accident. The Supreme Court said that Goodyear had no control over the restaurant and received no benefit from Stivison’s presence there.

Editor’s Comment: The Supreme Court does say that although injuries must be received in the course of and arising out of employment, there are cases where compensation is allowed even though not all of the factors in Fisher have been met. The Court said there are certain categories of exceptions: 1] zone of employment, 2] special hazards, and 3] going and coming cases. Stivison did not fit any established exception. Of course, it is difficult fitting everything in a pigeonhole.

The dissent observes that the assault arises out of employment because the reason for the assault had its origin at work. Because of Stivison’s honesty, he was assaulted. The dissent also states that Fisher held no factor should be controlling. Fisher required a “flexible and analytically sound approach. . . [o]therwise, the application of hard and fast rules can lead to unsound and unfair results.” Fisher at 280. Stivison is a delayed-action case where the cause of injury originated with the employment but the result occurs later. The dissent states these delayed-action cases should be entitled to workers compensation.

Can anyone deny that Stivison was assaulted because his telling the truth led to McCormick’s suspension and the later assault on Stivison? Aren’t such factors as control of the premises irrelevant? But if one has to talk “control”, doesn’t the company firing of McCormick demonstrate it was able to exercise control?

Information courtesy of the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin. Subscribe to the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin to keep informed about the Ohio workers’ compensation system.