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Was getting hit in groin by golf club an injury covered exclusively by workers’ comp?

You’d want to sue your boss, too, if he hit you in the groin with a golf club and your testicle had to be surgically removed. The question in this case is whether a court will allow the lawsuit after the employee received workers’ comp benefits for the injury. 

William Montgomery worked as a locker room attendant at the Glens Falls Country Club in New York. One day while he was in the pro shop watching a club professional assemble golf clubs, Montgomery says the course’s general manager, Richard Hackenburg, picked up a golf club shaft and, without warning, struck Montgomery in the groin. As a result, Montgomery’s left testicle was surgically removed.

Montgomery collected workers’ comp benefits for the injury, but he also sued Hackenburg. The country club’s former general manager (he voluntarily resigned some time after the incident) argued that workers’ compensation was Montgomery’s exclusive remedy in this case. Hackenburg asked for the case to be dismissed.

Two courts denied his request. Hackenburg made the same request to the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, and the justices there recently issued their opinion.

The justices noted that New York’s workers’ comp law says benefits are the exclusive remedy for an employee injured “by the negligence or wrong of another in the same employ.”

However, the court also said:

“Having the same employer is not synonymous with being ‘in the same employ’ and, to be shielded from liability, a defendant ‘must himself or herself have been acting within the scope of his or her employment and not have been engaged in a willful or intentional tort’ … The differing versions of the event presented by the parties, as well as the two club employees who supported [Montgomery’s] version, raise genuine questions of fact as to whether [Hackenburg] intended to strike plaintiff and did so in an excessive manner given the sensitive area of impact.”

The court said there were questions of fact as to whether Hackenburg acted in a “grossly negligent and/or reckless” manner. Therefore, it also denied his request to have the lawsuit thrown out.

As of this ruling, it appears Montgomery will be allowed to go forward with his lawsuit.

(William Montgomery v. Richard Hackenburg, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division Third Judicial Dept., No. 522917, 3/9/17)

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