In re: ‘Tis the Season for Injuries

By Judge Brian Addington, Kingsport

As Christmas music has taken over the radios this time of year, I’ve tried to think of my favorite songs.  I wrote a blog post in October about the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” but it is only one of many favorites. “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” and others get me in the mood to celebrate Christmas and the New Year.

Reindeer wearing orange collar

“They look friendly, but be careful.” –Grandma

A more recent song that has gained airtime is “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Although it was written by Randy Brooks and first performed by the Shropshires in 1979, I did not hear this song until sometime in the 1980s (I lead a sheltered life). But immediately I became fond of it. It is an appropriate song for a Workers’ Compensation Judge to consider.

It is never a good time to get injured, but getting injured during the holiday season will bring a quick end to festive activities. Instead of spending time with family enjoying food, friends and fellowship, one can end up nursing wounds, applying ice or heat, or just watching others have fun while laid up in bed.

A quick search of the Bureau’s Records revealed since December 31, 2009, 1,145 employees have been injured on New Year’s Eve, 863 on New Year’s Day, 238 on Christmas, and 576 on Christmas Eve. A particularly dangerous day was New Year’s Eve 2013, when 215 employees were injured. It appears the safest day was Christmas 2014, when, thankfully, only 28 employees were injured.

It is a fun time of giving and celebration, but remember to be careful out there. And, in your spare time, you might also want to read up on some interesting holiday-related cases I’ve included below.

In Knollwood Manor v. Cox, Ms. Cox sustained a fractured ankle in the employer’s parking lot when, not a reindeer, but her own car ran over her. After a period of temporary disability, she returned to work. Approximately one month later, Knollwood posted the December work schedule, which included Ms. Cox working Christmas and New Year’s Day. Ms. Cox refused to work the schedule, even though she had put on her job application that she was willing to work holidays and weekends, and quit her job. When the trial Court determined her permanency award, it found she did not have a meaningful return to work. The Panel disagreed and lowered her permanency award, finding her resignation had nothing to do with her injury.

Although not happening on a holiday, the case of Mason v. Old Time Pottery, Inc., et al. is interesting. Susan Mason claimed a work injury on November 11, 1997, when she fell into boxes containing Christmas wreathes. She claimed the fall aggravated her pre-existing back condition. There was a dispute about the incident, and the trial court, after weighing the contradictory evidence, ultimately ruled that Ms. Mason did not prove the accident aggravated her pre-existing condition. The Panel affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Further reading might include:

* Hawkins v. Maury County Board of Education, where putting up Christmas decorations at home and not the alleged incident at work was determined to be a possible cause of Ms. Hawkins’ injuries;

* Loveday v. Food Lion, Inc., where Ms. Loveday found work despite her restrictions because she was “in desperate financial straits with two children and Christmas approaching”; and,

* Christmas v. Christmas, where in a divided opinion the Supreme Court of Oklahoma determined that disability benefits received after divorce are separate not joint property.

I hope everyone enjoys the holidays and has a safe time at work and home.

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