For some reason, over the last few weeks I have had quite a few questions regarding “fight” cases. I guess everyone is on edge these days.
To be compensable, there are three questions to be asked:
- First, that the workplace was not merely the fortuitous site of the altercation. San Marco Co. v. Langford, 391 So. 2d 326, 327 (Fla. 1st DCA 1980).
- Second, the Claimant must show that he or she was not the initial aggressor. T. Edwards Hospital v. Rakestraw, 114 So.2d 802, 803 (Fla. 1st DCA 1959).
- Third, the Claimant must show that the animosity between the assailant and the Claimant was either created by, or increased as a result the workplace. San Marco Co., 391 So. 2d at 327.
If the claimant was the “initial aggressor”, the one who turned the argument into a physical altercation, it is not a compensable claim per Florida Statutes §440.09(3):
Compensation is not payable if the injury was occasioned primarily by the intoxication of the employee; by the influence of any drugs, barbiturates, or other stimulants not prescribed by a physician; or by the willful intention of the employee to injure or kill himself, herself, or another.
The key is to try and obtain witness statements as to who was the actual aggressor.
There are several cases where a personal non-work related dispute between co-workers spilled over into a fight at work. Even if the claimant is not the aggressor, some of these have been deemed not compensable if the workplace was simply the fortuitous location where they chose to duke it out.
However, there have been several office “love triangle” cases where the courts have found the claim compensable if all involved worked at the employer because the animosity was increased by the workplace.
Each case is very fact specific, so statements are important. We have a CEU entitled “Office Relationships Gone Wrong” that goes over all the cases. Let me know if you’d like it set up for your company.