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While Claims May Make You Cringe and Scream, May Luck Be Yours on Halloween!

By: Betsy Campo, Partner, Gainesville

 

The date was October, 1991.  After the first few stressful weeks of my third year of law school, I was looking forward to the annual “Come Dressed as Your Favorite Tort Case or Television Character” Halloween party hosted by some 3Ls.  My friend Troy and I sported khaki pants, blue oxford shirts and penny loafers and arrived as Chris and Pat from Saturday Night Live.  My good friend, Nick, showed up wearing a large plastic black bag with dirt smeared all over his arms and legs.  We had no idea what he was.  Then, he reminded us about our Torts case involving someone who allegedly contracted Typhoid from feces in a river.  He was dressed as the poop!  (he is now a mayor of a city in Iowa, fyi)  The folks that won the costume contest that year were 4 guys from my class that came dressed as the Swedish bikini team, well known for their appearance in Old Milwaukee Beer commercials. 

Reflecting back, I was thinking about the unusual injuries I have seen in my cases, and about the many characters I have met, which would make for quite a spectacle at Halloween. I’m sure many of you share that sentiment.  So as to not make light of the plight of our injured workers, however, I decided to investigate unusual or strange injuries and insurance claims from around the world to come up with some of those that might make for quite a costume party.  So, please read on and enjoy for some Halloween fun!

In the gory category, there’s the case of the construction worker in Nevada who was drilling overhead while standing on a ladder during a construction project.  While doing so, his 6’ ladder tipped off balance and he began to fall.  Instinctively, he tossed the drill and its 18” long drill bit to the ground.  Unfortunately, he didn’t toss it far enough away, and he landed on it-with his face.  The bit punctured his right eye and exited out the back of his skull, in a manner one co-worker described as something out of a horror movie.  Amazingly, he was still conscious when paramedics arrived.  The drill bit was successfully removed by being unscrewed, and he escaped with no brain injuries. 

In the sports category, there’s the case of major league pitcher Joel Zumaya of the Detroit Tigers, who almost missed playing in the World Series because he strained his wrist as a result of some fierce rounds of Guitar Hero.  His injury occurred just as his team was set to embark to the American League Championship Series, leaving his team without his 100 mph pitches.  Luckily, his team advanced to the next round without his assistance, and he recovered sufficiently to be able to pitch in the World Series.  In another baseball case, a fan was seriously injured during a halftime show at Shea Stadium when a 40 pound model plane shaped like a lawnmower crashed into the stands.  In tennis, a lineman was seriously injured after a ball struck him in the groin and he fell out of his chair.  In 1988, a professional photographer who was also a veteran skydiver was filming a jump by an instructor and a student when he jumped from a plane without a parachute.  Focused on the filming process, the photographer apparently forgot to put on a parachute and his camera equipment may have been mistaken for a chute.  He did not survive, but the tape that he filmed was amazingly recovered intact.

In the category of  international workers’ compensation,  there was a claim brought in another country by a woman who successfully recovered workers’ compensation benefits after she was hit in the face by a lamp that she ripped from the wall while having violent sex in a hotel room on a business trip. 

Along similar lines, there is the case of the chivalrous worker who tried to secure benefits as a result of an injury he sustained after coming to the aid of a female co-worker. Specifically, he came to her rescue as she was trying to dislodge her snack from a vending machine in the breakroom.  While shaking the machine and trying to dislodge his colleague’s treat, the man fractured his hip.  Although the state where he was injured does have a “personal comfort doctrine” similar to that found in our Florida Statutes, the Court determined that the man was not attending to his own personal comfort when injured so, therefore, the injury was not compensable.  It also was outside the scope of his normal work duties.

This next injury goes into the category I’ll call “Dude, Where’s My Car?”  The employee’s job was to feed bears at a large animal park.  For some reason, he thought it was a good idea to smoke marijuana before going to his job as a bear feeder.  Predictable hijinks ensued, ultimately resulting in a bear mauling part of the gentleman’s buttocks before he was able to escape, resulting in $65,000 in medical expenses.  There is also the case of the group of bored laborers who found an old bowling ball near the parking lot where they were working.  A challenge arose as to whether any of them could break the ball with a sledgehammer.  On the claimant’s second hit, the ball shattered and a piece of it flew into his eye. 

Although not an injury claim, there was an insurance claim brought for a lost phone by a farm worker who was using the flashlight feature on the device to help deliver a baby calf in the middle of the night.  The phone was lost inside the mother cow…

Along the line of “reptile claims”, there is the case of the chef in China who sustained lethal injuries when he was bitten by a cobra’s severed head, which he had cut off 20 minutes earlier when preparing a soup!  (Talk about food with a “bite”!) 

Injuries and insurance claims go hand-in-hand.  For those of us who work in this industry, laughter oftentimes helps us get through the day.  I hope you have enjoyed this humorous, yet gory, view of some bizarre injuries and claims, in the spirit of this Halloween month. Enjoy, and have a great October!