Just the Facts

In Little Rock, Arkansas, Nigel Haskett, a 21-year old McDonald’s employee, restrained a man and expelled him from the restaurant to end his battery of a female patron.  The attacker went to his car, pulled out a gun and shot Haskett several times as he stood, blocking the door, to prevent the attacker from re-entering.

Certainly the actions of this employee were heroic.  But do his injuries qualify for workers’ compensation benefits?  The carrier in this case denied the claim, claiming his injuries did not “arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment.”

“Arising out of …” indicates some connection between a benefit for the employer and the injury/illness.  Does protecting patron safety benefit the business and further their business objectives?  If so, then certainly Haskett’s injuries would have “arisen out of” his employment.

“In the course …” relates to the timing and location of the injury or illness.  The injury must occur during operations at a location reasonably expected by the employer.  Since Haskett was at the place of business and “on the clock” at the time of the incident, this test is most certainly met.

“Scope of employment …” provides additional clarification by: 1) analyzing the motivation of the employee; 2) analyzing the employer’s direction and control over the employee’s actions; and 3) analyzing the employer’s ability to foresee the activities of the employee.  In other words, the employee must be motivated by a desire to further the interests of his employer, and must be at the presumed direction of (or foreseen by) the employer.

Even though Nigel Haskett’s actions were certainly admirable, they probably were not motivated by promoting McDonald’s business objectives.  Nor was he directed by the manager to act as he did.  In fact, the employee handbook specifically instructs employees to not “try to be a hero.”  Rather, the police are to be called to handle dangerous situations.  Since Hawkett’s injuries were deemed not to fall within the “scope of employment,” the insurance carrier may have acted correctly.  Just being “at work” is not a guarantee of protection.

Not surprisingly, this will probably go to trial.  There is no way to predict how the jury will respond.

From mynewmarkets.com by Insurance Journal, April 6, 2009.