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Incorrect legal standard applied. Reversed and remanded decision that injury while playing on employer’s softball team within course and scope of employment.

July 1, 2017
Morris James LLP v. William Weller, (C.A. No. N16A-05-006 FWW – Decided Mar. 16, 2017)

The Delaware Superior Court provided a detailed and thorough analysis of the applicable law. Nocks v. Townsend’s, Inc. sets forth the standard for an employee injured during a softball game sponsored by the employer. Under that standard, from Larson’s Treatise, a company-sponsored event requires the court to consider: (1) the time and place factor; (2) the degree of employer initiative; (3) the financial support and equipment furnished by the employer; and (4) the employer’s benefit from having a company team. On the other hand, State v. Dalton sets forth the standard for a softball game that is not sponsored by the employer but, rather, by another organization. In that situation, the standard, also from Larson’s Treatise, requires the court to consider whether: (1) the injury occurs on the premises during a lunch or recreation period as a regular incident of employment; (2) the employer, by expressly or impliedly requiring participation, or by making the activity part of the services of the employee, brings the activity within the orbit of the employment; or (3) the employer derives substantially direct benefit from the activity beyond the intangible value of improvement in employee health and morale that is common to all kinds of recreation and social life.

As to the three-part standard for determining the compensability of a non-employer-sponsored recreational activity, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court’s decision, noting that the factors are set forth in the disjunctive, and, therefore, only one of the factors must be satisfied in order to support a finding that the injury is compensable. In this case, the Board had determined that the softball games were sponsored by the Wilmington Lawyers’ Softball League, not the employer. Therefore, the court determined that the Board had erred by applying the factor set forth in Nocks, which applied to employer-sponsored recreational events. The court remanded the case back to the Board to apply the factors set forth in Dalton for recreational events that are not sponsored by the employer. 

 

Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2017

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