Dog bite at work is within Course and Scope of Employment

CommCtOne of the critical elements of proving a Claim Petition in Pennsylvania Workers Compensation is whether the injury occurred in the course and scope of  employment.   The course and scope element has been heavily litigated over the years and the rules are a bit clearer today.  However, at times, course and scope issues still arise.

Recently the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court addressed the course and scope issue on a dig bite incident that occurred at work.  The facts are quite simple.  In this case, a part-time employee at a restaurant was injured when he was bitten by a co-worker’s dog.  The employer’s contended that the incident occurred while the employee was on break and occurred off the business property in a public alley.  Additionally, the Defendant averred that the employee was warned that the dog had a tendency to snap.   On the other hand, the employee asserted that the employer had two approved smoke breaks, that the employer actually provided an ashtray tower at the location of the incident, and that no positive work order was instructed to not take the break and pet the dog.

The Court upheld the WCJ decision that the course and scope element was met.   The Court’s opinion stated,

Thus, in finding that Claimant was injured in the course and scope of his employment, the WCJ considered the events surrounding the incident and the location where the injury occurred.

The employer also contended that the employees actions were more than a mere, temporary departure from work duties.  Essentially, the employer contended that the act of petting the dog was the act that exceeded more than temporary departure from work activities.  The Court rejected that argument.

This departure from Claimant’s work is not comparable to the departure in Trigon Holdings. Claimant did not make a pronounced departure from his work; 12 rather, he was on a break expressly permitted by Employer in an area designated by Employer as the break area. In addition, Claimant did not feel the need to inform his co-workers that he would be departing from his normal duties as a line cook. Claimant testified that at some point during the smoke break all of the employees on duty that night were outside with him. (2010 FOF ¶ 6; Hr’g Tr. at 8, R.R. at 79a.) Therefore, the WCJ did not err in finding that Claimant’s act of petting the dog was a temporary departure from his work duties. 

Finally, the Court rejected the notion that the employee was willful because he was warned that the dog was aggressive.

Here, before petting the dog, Claimant held out his hand to determine whether the dog would be receptive to him. (Hr’g Tr. at 7, R.R. at 78a.) After determining that the dog would be receptive, Claimant got down on his knee and the dog began to lick his face. (Hr’g Tr. at 7, R.R. at 78a.) Claimant also testified
that he did not do anything to antagonize the dog into biting him. (Hr’g Tr. at 10, R.R. at 81a.) Therefore, Claimant’s act of petting the dog was not “premeditated,deliberate, extreme, and inherently of a high-risk nature,” Penn State University,
15 A.3d at 954, so as to remove him from his course of employment.

The Court wrapped up its affirming opinion by recognizing prior case law that confirmed that smoking during intervals, smoke breaks, do not interfere with work duties and are therefore not deviations from the course and scope of employment.

Warehouse growth in Franklin and Cumberland County is a blessing and a curse

04102-box2The Greencastle, Chambersburg, Shippensburg, and Carlisle areas have been booming with large warehouse development.  The growth is obviously related to Interstate 81, a  corridor that has become truck heavy in carrying good both north and south.  The good part of the warehousing boom is — the jobs.  The bad part of the warehousing boom — the jobs.

The warehousing boom has certainly lowered unemployment rates in South Central Pennsylvania.  The most recent data indicates Franklin County with a 5.2% unemployment rate and Cumberland County with a 4.7% unemployment rate, those both falling under the statewide 5.7% unemployment rate.  Those are excellent numbers in a nationwide economy still recovering from the great 2007-2009 recession.

However, unfortunately for the mid-state, many of these distribution/fulfillment center type jobs are temporary jobs. That means little to no benefits.  The pay at these warehouses is also sub-par than what would be desired, ranging from $9 to $14 per hour.    Let’s take for instance the new warehouse facility off Exit 24 in Shippensburg, the Procter & Gamble facility.  Procter & Gamble just opened in September.  When it reaches peak performance, it may employ to near 1,2000 jobs in the 1.8 million square foot distribution center.   Not surprisingly though, out of a potential 1200 employees, ONLY FIVE will be actual Procter & Gamble employees.  All others will be through temporary employment contractors, such as DB Schenker and Quality Associates.

More than likely, along with lower paying, temporary jobs, you have witnessed much heavier truck traffic on Interstate 81.  That will only worsen.  That will only cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Besides job quality, Ross is also looking at the traffic. Everyone has a tale about a near miss on I-81 or waiting in line for a crash to be cleared, he said.

“It is out of control,” Ross said. “Widening I-81 has to be the No. 1 priority. If they say funding is available today, we’re still looking 10 to 15 years out. It goes from being our lifeline to being our albatross.”

From a workers compensation standpoint, it means more work injuries.  It also means more workers compensation litigation.  Why?  Temporary agencies tend to deny more claims and make injured workers fight for their benefits.   Many of these injured workers can’t afford to be out of work and not receiving any wages.  Many of these workers have absolutely no access to quality health insurance coverage.  Their temporary agency employers do not provide insurance in many cases and the injured workers wages are too low to afford private insurance on their own. It’s a failure in the system.

Warehouse work injuries vary from facility to facility, depending on the products ad methods utilized in the fulfillment process.  So what types of injuries does our law firm see in warehousing type facilities.  Here is a list, but certainly not an exhausting list.

  • Repetitive type injuries.  These types of injuries usually involve the upper extremities.   Common type repetitive injuries are carpal tunnel syndrome (hand and wrist), cubital tunnel syndrome (elbow), bursitis (shoulder, knee, joint areas), DeQuervein’s  (wrist), Epicondylitis (Elbow) , Goal Keepers Thumb (Hand), Ganglion, Tendinitis, Tenosynovitis, and Thoracis Outlet Syndrom
  • Lifting Injuries:  These frequently involve the back, shoulder, or neck.  They can be simple strains to serious herniated discs.  More than likely, your accepted injury was classified as a simply strain.  Rarely is the actual injury a simple strain.
  • Twisting Type Injuries:  These can involve the neck, back, and knees.
  • Concussions/head Injuries:  We see these when fork lift type accidents occur or when product falls and hits a person on the head.  We also see these from time to time in slip and falls at work.
  • Fork Lift/Pellet Jack accidents
  • Slip and Falls at work.  Many of these involve snow and ice or because of grease, liquid, or packing contents, such as cardboard or paper, on the floor that causes an injured worker to fall.
  • Machinery.  Usually we see this where a hand, arm, or leg gets  caught on a belt, in a machine, or by a tool.  These can lead to complex issues like Specific Loss.

Again, this list is certainly not exhaustive and your injury may not appear in any of these definitions.  That does not mean you do not have a work injury.

Bottom line is, with more warehouses, distribution center, and fulfillment facilities, work injuries will happen and increase in our area.  Insurance carriers for many of these employers and temporary agency employers deny injuries and hope you just work through it or go away.   Don’t.  Here are three simple steps to take if you are injured on the job:

  1. Tell your employer you were injured at work.  Make sure you are upfront that this happened at work.
  2. Seek medical treatment
  3. Contact Mooney & Associates at 1-877-632-4656.  Your consultation is FREE and we do not get paid unless we win.  It’s that simple!

Do not wait on any of these three steps!

Mooney & Associates has offices located in Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Carlisle, Mercersburg, Duncannon, Halifax, Stewardstown, York, Hanover, Gettysburg, Harrisburg, and New Oxford.  Our attorneys come to the office closest to you.  If you are seriously injured and can’t travel, out attorneys will come to your home or make hospital visits.

Veteran discount for Pennsylvania Workers Compensation

Mooney & Associates is proud and grateful for the service our military veterans have provided to this great Nation.  Our law firm offers military veterans an array of discounts on legal services when using our law firm.  It is our way of showing appreciation for their service.

If you are a military veteran and are hurt on the job, we will offer a discounted fee on workers compensation cases.  The discount can save a veteran hundreds or thousands of dollars.   It’s a commitment we make to those that made the commitment for all.  If you are a military veteran and have been hurt on the job, contact Mooney & Associates.  Attorney Mark Buterbaugh, the firm’s workers compensation Attorney, will provide you a FREE consultation and case evaluation, then go over with you what the discount is for being a veteran.  It’s simple.  Call us at 1-877-632-4656 to set up a time to meet with Attorney Buterbaugh.

Attorney Buterbaugh travels to all of our office locations including Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Carlisle, Harrisburg, Gettysburg, Hanover, Duncannon, Halifax, Mercersburg, and York.

Central Pennsylvania Get Out To VOTE!

It is that time of year.  Fall.  Autumn.  Color change.

More importantly, however, it is Election Day!   The right to vote is one of the most critical rights afforded to the American people (sort of …).   The US Constitution does not explicitly provide any right to vote, but instead, delegates voting power to the States.  The Constitution itself discusses the inherent right throughout the document, but, the fact is, it does not explicitly spell out that the American people actually have a right to vote under the US Constitution.  Overall, the Constitution does provide the right, through Amendments and Article that refer to the right.

Your right to vote is critically important for the effectiveness of your local, state, and federal governments.  There is too much complaining in this Nation.  Public opinion polls show an unfavorable rating for the President and Governor.  Congress and State Legislature approval ratings are at an all-time low.  Yet, voting turnout will also be low.  It is illogical and makes little sense.

If you are mad at your leaders, the best way to do it, rather than posting on Facebook or taking with friends, is to exercise your right to vote.  The American people historically underestimate the power they have at the ballot box.   The average American believes they have little to no power and that the wealthy and business community dominate power in America.  That may be true to some extent, but come Election Day, the power the American people have can be wielded very sharply and and can alter the way their government governs.

Get out and vote.  Exercise your right.  Pennsylvania has an important election with a Governor’s race that has incumbent gov. Tom Corbett facing Democrat Tom Wolf.  However, the State Legislature also has many races on the ballot.  Change can be effectuated.  It just takes a few minutes of your time.  That’s all.

To find your voting location, simply click the link below.

Votes PA Voting Location Finder