The mere fact that an injury occurs on company property during or near an employee’s work shift does not mean the injury is compensable under Ohio law. Employers should be mindful to scrutinize all potential claims to determine whether the alleged injury occurs in the course of or arises out of employment. A recent decision from the Second District Court of Appeals illustrates this point.
In Garner v. Bur. of Work. Comp., 2nd Dist. Case No. 27945, 2018-Ohio-3398, 1018 WL 4049295, the claimant drove into his employer’s parking lot before the beginning of his shift to park his car. After parking his car, the claimant got into an argument with a coworker’s husband about the way the claimant parked his car. The coworker’s husband punched the claimant, causing injuries to the claimant’s body.
The claimant filed a worker’s compensation claim, which was denied at both the DHO and SHO hearings. The claimant then appealed to the trial court, where the employer and the Bureau filed motions for summary judgment on the ground that the claimant’s injuries were not in the course of and did not arise out of his employment, a requirement under R.C. 4123.01(C). The trial court granted both motions, disallowing the claim. The claimant appealed to the court of appeals.
The court of appeals carefully reviewed the facts of the case and examined R.C. 4123.01(C). Upholding the trial court’s judgment, the court of appeals noted the claimant had not clocked in when the assault took place and was not engaged in any activity for his employer. The claimant argued his claim should be compensable because it occurred on company property. However, the court of appeals rejected this argument, reasoning that courts in Ohio generally rely on two factors when deciding the compensability of fight claims: (1) whether the origin of the assault was work-related; and (2) whether the claimant was a victim and not the instigator. To be compensable the assault must be work-related and the claimant must be the victim. Because the argument precipitating the fight was unrelated to work, the court of appeals denied the claimant’s appeal.