I have read, reviewed and/or written about several cases that have or involve unusual and unique factual patterns or situations, such as a workers’ compensation matter that I wrote about last year, in which a claimant successfully brought a claim for benefits against his employer, a gun store, after the claimant accidently shot himself at work while handling one of the employer’s guns. The following article that I will be discussing in this week’s blog also involves a case with a fact pattern that is a little out of the ordinary, but which nevertheless is still useful in illustrating certain concepts that are relevant to successfully obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. See Restaurant worker’s provoking behavior before altercation blocks WCA coverage. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 6, May 7, 2021, p.5. The case discussed in the article, Restrepo v. Elite Staffing Inc., 29 ILWCLB 61 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2021), involved a cook that picked a fight with another employee at his employer’s restaurant, who then punched the cook in self-defense, knocking him to the ground outside the employer’s premises, where they had gone to fight. Apparently, the cook had deliberately and mockingly poured several buckets of water on the coworker’s shoes, despite the coworker repeatedly asking the cook to stop doing it. The cook had a history of causing trouble with others at the restaurant, and his starting of the fight with the coworker was no exception, but after being injured in the aforesaid clash, the cook had the audacity to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Not surprisingly, both the arbitrator and the Commission (on review) denied the cook’s claim for benefits, and/or affirmed the denial of same, finding that since the cook was the instigator of the fight, by acting aggressively, in that he incited and provoked the coworker to fight, the cook’s injuries sustained in the incident did not arise out of and in the course of his employment, and he thus was denied benefits. Indeed, suffering injury as a result of being the aggressor in situations like the one discussed above is not the kind of situation that would give rise to a claim for benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
While rather unusual as stated above, the Restrepo case still illustrates a rather simple concept, which is that, when a claimant deliberately provokes and causes fights and/or trouble at work, and is injured as a result, he will most likely be denied workers’ compensation benefits.
My aforesaid earlier blog article was from April of last year, and it was titled: “Unusual Case in Which a Claimant Received Benefits After Shooting Himself at Work,” and was a review of the following article: Gun store employee wins benefits after accidentally shooting himself. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin (also cited as ILWCLB), Volume 28, Issue 1, February 28, 2020, p. 2, which in turn was based on the case Hasan v. Eagle Sports Range, 28 ILWCLB 1 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019).
See Restaurant worker’s provoking behavior before altercation blocks WCA coverage. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 6, May 7, 2021, p.5.
Attorney Matthew Ludwinski