Whether the Workers' Compensation Board properly denied a widow's claim for Worker's Compensation benefits when her husband died while bowling for a team sponsored by one of his employer's clients.
Yes. Pursuant to section 10 of the Workers' Compensation Law, an award is foreclosed because the decedent's employer did not require the decedent to bowl with the client, the employer did not pay him to bowl, nor did the employer sponsor or overtly encourage the activity.
An accountant died from a heart attack while bowling for a team sponsored by one of the firm's clients. He had met each week with this client to bowl and discuss business both before and after bowling. No other firm employees bowled with them. Conflicting evidence existed as to whether the bowling or his pre-existing severe obstructive coronary artery disease caused the heart attack.
The Workers' Compensation Law Judge granted his widow's claim for Workers' Compensation benefits. The Workers' Compensation Board reversed, ruling that his death did not arise out of an injury sustained in the course of his employment and that benefits were barred by section 10 of the Workers' Compensation Law. A divided Appellate Division agreed with the Board's conclusion that the decedent's participation in bowling was a voluntary, after-hours activity. The Court of Appeals affirmed and found that the threshold test is whether the activity constitutes part of the employee's work-related duties. Cases decided before the most recent amendment to section 10 of the Workers' Compensation Law focused on factors such as whether the activity confers a benefit on the employer. Under the existing section 10, an award is foreclosed unless the employer (1) required participation in the activity; (2) paid the employee to participate; and (3) sponsored the activity. Although the employer may have known and acquiesced in the activity, this does not constitute overt encouragement or sponsorship, nor did the employer require participation or pay the employee to participate. The Court of Appeals concluded that the Board's determination that none of the three conditions were met was supported by substantial evidence and therefore affirmed the decision below.
Prepared by the liibulletin-ny Editorial Board.