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Get injured on a work trip? Employer may be held liable

An interesting court case unfolding in an East Coast state should cause Colorado residents to think about what actually constitutes a "work-related injury." While the case is taking place at the state and not the federal level, it could always impact how other states shape their laws related to benefits for injured workers.

The court of appeals for the East Coast state ruled that a woman who was injured while she was intoxicated on a work-related trip is entitled to benefits for her treatment because her employer provided the alcohol.

According to court records, the woman, who is the office manager for a car dealer, traveled for a sales meeting at the corporate headquarters of her employer. During the overnight trip, the woman became intoxicated at a dinner where food and drinks were paid for by the employer.

It was when she and other managers returned to the employer-provided hotel that she fell off an escalator railing, sustaining several serious injuries. She required multiple surgeries, and she was fired after she returned to work.

The court ruled, against her employer's wishes, that she was entitled to workers' compensation benefits because she was "within the course of employment" when she was on the road for her job. It also ruled that the alcohol she consumed was the "proximate" cause of her injury, and the employer was liable because it provided the drinks.

There's no word on if the case is going to proceed to any higher court, but it will be interesting to see how related cases might play out in other states, including Colorado. What do you think? Should employers have to cover any injuries that happen to workers when they are on business-related trips? Couldn't it be argued that the woman would not have been injured had her work not required her to go on the trip?

Source: Risk & Insurance, "Intoxication from employer-provided alcohol doesn't bar benefits," April 1, 2013

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Eley Law Firm
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