The Top 10 Bizarre Workers’ Comp Cases for 2017

The Top 10 Bizarre Workers’ Comp Cases for 2017

Annual “Bizarre” List Began 30 Years Ago

Continuing a New Year’s tradition that informally began 30 years ago, when my mentor, Dr. Arthur Larson, original author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, and I would meet each January at his home on Learned Place, here in Durham, North Carolina, and informally exchange lists of bizarre cases from the previous calendar year, I submit to you my list of the Top 10 Bizarre Workers’ Compensation Cases for 2017. For the past dozen years or so, I have released the annual list in electronic format. As you may know, a few years ago, the annual list was even featured on National Public Radio’s Saturday morning show, “Wait, Wait, … Don’t Tell Me.”

As is the case with previous “Bizarre Lists,” I am ever mindful of the fact that while a case might be bizarre in an academic sense, it is actually intensely real for the participants and their families. These highlighted cases involve real injuries, some even fatal. Life has its bizarre moments and, since the workers’ compensation world is quite representative of the larger world around it, the cases we see each year sometimes have quirky fact patterns.

And so, in the spirit of my annual January ritual, I offer ten bizarre published cases (in no particular order), and a couple of others that, while truly bizarre, didn’t make the appellate courts. If you know of others that fit the category, please send them along to me [tom@workcompwriter.com].

[Author’s Note: Citations link to Lexis Advance.]

CASE #1: Falling Clipboard Results in Fatal Helicopter Crash (Idaho)

In a case with a particularly unusual and tragic fact pattern, the Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed a state trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG), on exclusive remedy grounds, in a wrongful death action filed by the father of a pilot killed in a helicopter crash in a remote region of that western state. The pilot was employed by a small aviation company that had been contracted to fly two IDFG employees to the remote site to conduct a fish survey. The copter crashed, killing all three persons aboard. Evidence indicated that, just prior to the crash, one of the passengers became air sick and opened the helicopter door, dropping a clipboard in the process. The jettisoned clipboard struck and damaged the tail rotor of the helicopter, making it too unstable to fly. The Court agreed that IDFG was the pilot’s statutory employer and, as such, was immune from tort liability.

Krinitt v. Idaho Dep’t of Fish & Game, 398 P.3d 158 (Idaho 2017).

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 111.04.

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