Employers often wonder about their liability for employee injuries sustained during company softball team games, company-sponsored parties, and the like. A new case from the North Carolina Supreme Court reaffirms legal principles that generally refuse to hold the employer liable for these non-working time injuries. The suit was filed by a Salter Path EMT who was injured driving a go-cart during a “Fun Day” event sponsored by the town to honor its fire and EMT volunteers. The plaintiff alleged that her injury arose out of her employment, and therefore should be covered under Workers’ Compensation.
The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed a lower court, and granted summary judgment for the employer. The Court concluded that the plaintiff’s injury did not arise from her employment. A go-cart accident would not be a reasonably foreseeable risk given the plaintiff’s job duties. The event was voluntary, and the town did not require or coerce the plaintiff to attend. Sponsorship by the employer was not enough to make it a work activity. This decision confirms prior holdings that these types of company-sponsored recreational events are not covered under Worker’s Compensation unless the plaintiff can show some requirement by the employer that they attend, or some direct business benefit to the employer from the employee’s attendance at the function.