The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board’s decision to deny benefits to a man injured at work was unsupported by the evidence. The judges ordered a determination of the benefits that the man’s widow should receive on his behalf.
Dennis Thompson worked as a parts clerk at York Chrysler car dealership. He got into a verbal altercation with service technician Dan Blackford in August 2007 after Thompson told Blackford the part he needed was unavailable. Thompson, who had a pre-existing heart condition, decided to leave work. As he was leaving, Blackford and Thompson continued the verbal altercation, as the court record described it. During this incident, Thompson fell to the ground, was injured and received treatment at St. Clare Medical Center. He claimed Blackford pushed him; Blackford said Thompson came at him flailing and that he blocked Thompson’s hand, causing the fall.
Thompson filed an application for adjustment with the board in October 2007, seeking medical expenses and temporary total disability until he completed treatment at HOPE counseling services to determine his need for treatment for depression, disability and past assault at his workplace.
He died from unrelated causes in 2011, after which his widow Sally Thompson amended the claim to seek the benefits on his behalf.
The board determined Sally Thompson didn’t meet her burden to show the injuries arose out of and occurred in the course of Dennis Thompson’s employment.
“The physical interaction stemmed from and was part of the work-related verbal altercation, as evidenced by the parties’ stipulation there was only one altercation or incident. Thus, the uncontroverted evidence leads inescapably to the conclusion that this altercation occurred in the course of Dennis’s employment, and the Board’s finding to the contrary must be overturned,” Judge Melissa May wrote. “The uncontradicted evidence shows the confrontation between Dennis and Blackford stemmed from their work relationship.”
“An injury from an assault by a co-worker may be compensable under the IWCA, and the only evidence presented was that Blackford was the aggressor. Thus we must overturn the Board’s finding to the contrary,” she wrote in Sally Thompson, Widow of Dennis Thompson v. York Chrysler, 93A02-1302-EX-153.