(CN) – A South Carolina man who was injured in his company’s kickball game is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, the state’s highest court ruled.
Stephen Whigham worked as the director of creative solutions for Jackson Dawson Communications, a marketing and advertising firm.
The company held bi-monthly team building events, and Whigham suggested a kickball game.
His supervisor approved the idea and gave him $440 to spend on facility rental, T-shirts, snacks and drinks. Half of the company’s employees showed up for the game on a Friday afternoon.
On the last play of the game, Whigham jumped to avoid being thrown out. He landed on his right leg, shattering his tibia and fibula.
Whigham underwent two surgeries and was told he would need a knee replacement.
The workers’ compensation commissioner denied Whigham’s request for benefits. She stated that the injury did not occur on the job and that he was not required to attend.
The full workers’ compensation commission agreed, and so did the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
Down to his last strike, Whigham took the case to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which reversed the previous decisions and found that he was entitled to benefits.
Justice Kaye G. Hearn agreed with Whigham that attending the kickball game was part of his job.
“We agree that Whigham was impliedly required to attend the kickball game he organized and that it became part of his services; therefore, the event was brought within the scope of his employment. Although the event may have been voluntary for company employees generally, the undisputed facts unequivocally indicate Whigham was expected to attend as part of his professional duties,” she wrote.
Hearn cited the testimony of Whigham’s supervisor, who said he would have been “surprised and shocked” if Whigham had not attended the game.
She also quoted the supervisor’s evaluation of Whigham, which called him a “team player” who has been “instrumental in bringing back a couple of fun events, a cookout and dare I say it, kickball.”
Justice John W. Kittredge filed a dissenting opinion, stating that even if Whigham had to attend the event, he didn’t have to play the game.”Attending the event and playing in the game are two entirely different things,” he stated.
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