State court: Workers' comp OK for kickball injury

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Have you ever been hurt in a company softball or kickball game? The South Carolina Supreme Court says you may be entitled to workers' compensation.

On Wednesday, the court ruled that Stephen Whigham, who was injured in a company kickball game, is entitled to workers' compensation benefits because he was required to attend the game as part of his job.

Whigham worked for Jackson Dawson Communications, a public relations firm. With the encouragement of his boss, he organized a kickball game as a team-building event for employees. He rented a facility and had T-shirts made.

During the Friday afternoon game, Whigham shattered two bones in his leg while trying to avoid being tagged out. He underwent two surgeries and has been told that he'll ultimately need a knee replacement, according to court documents.

A hearing will be held to figure out how much Whigham should get.

Workers' compensation commissioners initially denied Whigham's claim, saying that he hadn't been required to be at the game. An appeals court upheld that ruling, but the high court said Whigham had to be there because he organized the game, so it had become part of his job duties.

"Although the event may have been voluntary for company employees generally, the undisputed facts unequivocally indicate Whigham was expected to attend as part of his professional duties," the court wrote.

Justices also pointed to testimony from Whigham's boss, who said he would have been "surprised and shocked" if Whigham hadn't showed up.

In a dissenting opinion, two justices wrote they would have upheld the commission's decision to deny benefits because it wasn't clear if Whigham had to attend the game. Even if he had to be there, those justices wrote that it wasn't clear that he had to actually play.

___

Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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