If you read “Does Fault Matter in a NJ Worker’s Comp Case,” then you know worker’s compensation generally will not be awarded in cases where an employee gets injured by violating company policy. This usually includes workplace altercations.
However, there are always some exceptions. One exception came up in a case that was decided by the court of appeals earlier this year: Arvind Bhut vs. Aluminum Shapes.
The case was an unusual one. Two employees got into a tense confrontation where, according to the courts, each felt the need to defend themselves from the other. In the course of the conflict, Arvin Bhut injured his shoulder.
The court ruled as follows:
“The judge of compensation found as fact that neither petitioner nor Stevens intended to hurt the other when they encountered each other outside of the locker room. Stevens’s and petitioner’s actions were merely self-protective. Petitioner swung his arm toward Stevens because he believed Stevens was pushing the pizza box into him, and Stevens grabbed petitioner’s arm because he believed petitioner intended to hurt him. As the judge succinctly stated, “[t]he reactions of both Mr. Stevens and the petitioner were in response to what each felt was aggressive behavior.” Because petitioner was injured as a result of an accident that arose out of and in the course of his employment, his injury is compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act. See N.J.S.A. 34:15-1.”
This case demonstrates that the court can make exceptions for injuries sustained in acts of self-defense. This does not mean that employers won’t challenge your right to receive benefits in the event that you are involved in a confrontation at all.
This may not be the only thing you would have to prove, however. In most worker’s compensation cases where assault is a factor, your attorney must help you prove the assault was related to the employment conditions. An assault that is purely personal in nature is not your employer’s responsibility.
For example, in the 2015 case Lesley Joseph v. Monmouth County, the Superior Court of New Jersey found that the employee, Joseph, had been injured in an assault that “lacked any nexus to petitioner’s employment.” The persons involved in the altercations were both employees, and the assault happened at work, but arose as a result of both employee’s involvement with a side-gig the courts described as a “pyramid scheme.”
Workplace violence doesn’t always arise when a lone, mad gunman shows up on the scene. Sometimes it arises without warning. When it does, these cases can get complicated fast, and employers will often do almost anything to defend themselves from liability.
If you’ve been injured in this kind of a case, contact Talone Law for a consultation today. You don’t want to fight this battle alone.