No workers'-comp benefits from workplace fight

No workers'-comp benefits from workplace fight

Scott Fredericks, an employee of Beverly Industries Inc. in Louisiana, filed a claim for workers' compensation, stating that he was injured when a coworker hit him over the head with a fire extinguisher during a fight at work. He said he suffered headaches and pain in his neck, hand, arms and ankles. He also stated that after he reported the incident to his employer, he was terminated for engaging in horseplay. When Beverly Industries declined to pay workers'-comp benefits, Fredericks sued his former employer.

Beverly Industries said it denied Fredericks' workers'-comp claim because he was the initial aggressor in the fight, and because he had no disability that prevented him from working. Beverly relied on a Louisiana law that denies workers'comp benefits for injuries caused by an employee's willful intention to injure himself or another or to an employee who is the "initial physical aggressor in an unprovoked physical altercation, unless excess force was used in retaliation against the initial aggressor."

After a trial at which Fredericks, his coworker and doctors testified, the workers'-comp judge ruled against Fredericks, concluding that he had made false statements in support of his workers'-comp claim and had not shown that he was unable to work. Fredericks appealed to the Louisiana Court of Appeal that noted Fredericks had testified that his coworker, Albert Allen, was the aggressor in the fight and that Allen testified that Fredericks was. One doctor who examined Fredericks testified that he believed Fredericks was exaggerating his symptoms and that he did not have a serious injury, and another, a neurologist, testified that Fredericks had a trivial head injury and did not have any neurological disturbances. Based on the trial testimony and evidence, the appellate court concluded that the trial judge's ruling against Fredericks, which was based on his assessment of the credibility of Fredericks and the other witnesses, was not erroneous and should be affirmed.

Fredericks v. Beverly Industries Inc., 910 So.2d 447 (La.App. 2005), Court of Appeal of Louisiana, July 26, 2005.

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