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Another Failed Horseplay Defense

Last week I told you about a case that contrasted two California Workers’ Compensation defenses:  horseplay and initial physical aggressor.  Well, that provides me an opportunity to Segway into another recent writ denied case where the horseplay defense also failed (erroneously, I believe).

Applicant was a security supervisor at University of Southern California, and, as part of his duties, rode around on a Segway.  In case you didn’t know, Segways are like wheel chairs for those who are physically capable of walking and standing, but are unbelievably lazy.

Witnesses testified that applicant circled a co-worker several times on the Segway (the spoken-of horseplay) before leaving the parking lot, only to lose control of the Segway and fall, injuring his head, neurological system, ears, legs, knees and psyche.

The Workers’ Compensation Judge rejected the horseplay defense, reasoning that the horseplay was over by the time the injury had occurred — applicant was no longer circling his co-worker when this had happened.  Neither the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board nor the Court of Appeal were willing to step in to correct the WCJ’s erroneous finding (as your humble author submits it should be called).

But it is possible and probable that the fall and the resulting injuries were in fact caused by the residual effects of the horseplay.  Circling around and then driving off on what is clearly not a stable device seems like a guarantee for disaster.

And so dear readers, be warned that the shield of horseplay is more of a buckler, one which brings to bear its utility only with a narrow scope and precise application, rather than general usage.

Categories: Defenses
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