A Horse is a Horse of Course, of Course, but in Alabama, Riding one may not be Considered in the Course
On February 27, 2015, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released its opinion inDana Louise Pollock v. Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama, Inc. wherein it considered a claimed injury arising out of a horse riding accident. At the trial court level, the judge was presented with evidence that the injured employee, the business manager of a 6 week summer camp, voluntarily participated in a horseback ride at the end of the camp. The ride was for staff members only and participation was not required or encouraged. In fact, when the employee asked her supervisor for permission to participate, she was actually discouraged because of the existence of prior back injuries. During the ride, the horse bolted unexpectedly causing injury to the employee's back. The employee contended that the injury was work related because it happened during work hours, during an event that occurs every year at the end of the summer session, it was on her employer's property, and she had her supervisor's permission. The employer file a motion for summary judgment asserting that the accident did not arise out of or in the course of her employment. The trial court granted the motion and the employee appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals agreed with the trial court noting that the horseback ride was voluntary and the employer did not derive any benefit from the activity. My Two Cents: Whether or not an employer derives a benefit from a particular activity is an important, and sometimes overlooked, consideration when looking at the "arising out of" portion of the two part causation test. Just because you are at work when an accident occurs does not mean that the accident is work related. Simply being at work might satisfy the "in the course of" portion of the test but not both parts. In this case, it was determined that there was not substantial evidence that either part of the two part test could be proven. ________________________ About the Author This blog submission was prepared by Mike Fish, an attorney with Fish, Nelson & Holden, LLC, a law firm dedicated to representing self-insured employers, insurance carriers, and third party administrators in all matters related to workers' compensation. Fish Nelson & Holden is a member of the National Workers' Compensation Defense Network. If you have any questions about this submission or Alabama workers' compensation in general, please contact Fish by e-mailing him firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him directly at 205-332-1448.