Safety and OSHA News

Worker attacked by snack machine sues for comp


An employee helps a co-worker get a stuck bag of chips out of a workplace vending machine and in the process fractures his hip. Does he get workers’ comp or not?

The employee got comp. Here’s what happened:

Clinton Dwyer was working at a Circuit City when a co-worker asked him to help her get a stuck bag of chips out of a vending machine.

There was a history of snacks not dropping down from the machine’s spindles. Employees would shake the machine to dislodge the stuck snack.

Dwyer shook the machine twice, but no luck.

Then, he took a step back and gave a hockey-player-like check to the machine with his shoulder.

Next thing, Dwyer was on the ground in pain. He fractured his hip in the process of trying to retrieve the snack.

Doctors operated on him that day for the fractured hip. Years after the incident he still feels pain in humid weather and after a certain amount of exertion.

He filed for workers’ comp, and Circuit City fought it.

Did personal comfort doctrine apply?

The state Workers’ Comp Commission awarded him comp, saying the personal comfort doctrine applied.

That doctrine says at-work employee actions for personal comfort — such as eating or using the restroom — are covered by workers’ comp.

Circuit City took the case to the state appellate court.

The court said Dwyer should get comp, but not because of the personal comfort doctrine.

Instead, the court said the good Samaritan doctrine applied.

That doctrine says when an employee leaves his work duties to help someone else, whether that is “in the course of work” hinges on whether the employee’s action was reasonably foreseeable.

The court said, since there were previous problems with the snack machine, and the company had no stated policy against shaking it, it was foreseeable that Dwyer would help his co-worker. For that reason, he got comp.

This isn’t an isolated case. An Oregon court has also ruled that an employee who injured his foot while helping a co-worker dislodge candy from a machine should also receive comp.

Did the court extend the good Samaritan doctrine too far? Do you think Dwyer should get comp? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

Cite 1: Circuit City v. Dwyer, Appellate Court of Illinois, 5/21/09.

Cite 2: Washington Group International v. Barela, Oregon Court of Appeals, 8/22/07.

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  1. John Green says:

    What part of body slamming a vending machine is work related! What part of getting hurt from that action isn’t foreseeable? This guy’s action was not reasonable by any acceptable standard of employee behavior but the outcome was foreseeable. Maybe it is an opportunity for a new book “Vending for Dummies.” The guy should be too embarrassed to submit the workers comp claim to start with and the awarding and review judge needs a reality check or in the alternative an opportunity to read “Vending for Dummies.”

  2. Charles Marsh says:

    Way too far. Why isnt there a COMMON SENSE DOCTRINE? There should be no Comp for STUPIDITY.

  3. What about the common sense doctrine?

  4. No he should not. He should have called the vending company, Placed a sign stating the unit was out of order over the money slots. Yes they would have been deprived of the use of the machine, but if the vending company isn’t getting revenue out of the unit then they wake up and fix the machine. He should have used common sense and not tried to be a Neanderthal and impress the ladies.

  5. Actually, I believe the court got it right. Realizing that Workers Compensation is an insurance program to help workers AND limit potential liability from workers suing the employer. I can imagine what the liability would be if he had not been a worker but a visitor (or vendor) who got injured on this machine when there was a known problem.

    There seems to be a whole psychology concerning vending machines. If someone rips a person off for less than a dollar, most people will put it in perspective and let it go. A vending machine, on the other hand, the person will become infuriated and will go to extreme measures to get their paper or that 75 cent confection.

  6. John Gustavsen says:

    We no longer have to ask what’s wrong with America, this logic is beyond comprehension. Laws and the Judge’s that rule on them are out of control.

  7. Remember folks, this is Illinois – the state that gave us Blagovich and Nobama.

  8. No he should not have recieved comp. this is another typical reason why it is so expensive for companies to do business in the USA. when are we going to wake up and demand common sense. sounds liek the judges do not have common sense either.

  9. That is just too dumb for words.

  10. Before I retired from the military, I had a soldiers killed rocking a Coke machine. Machine was full, it fell forward pinning him underneath the machine. Vending machines are very dangerous.

    If all our employees displayed good common sense then 90% of our comp injuries wouldn’t happen. Yes I think it is justified to pay this employee comp.

  11. Just one more example of someone trying to blame someone else for his own stupidity. Do companies really need a policy stating that employees shouldn’t shake or slam their bodies into a vending machine because they might get injured? Duh! Could we, as employers, just have a common sense policy that would have prevented this from being covered by worker’s comp? A policy that simply states that employees should use common sense at all times to avoid injury?

  12. This is simple – Personal Responsibility. There is no way workers comp should be awarded in this case. You do not need signs and training for operating a candy vending machine. I realize in today’s society, personal responsibility is lacking and blame is the flavor of the day. The person that filed the claim in my opinion will never suceed in anything they do because they have a blame mentality. The courts should be scolded for this insane decision.

  13. How far should we take this? Should I post signs on the back of the automobiles in the parking lot that says ….Caution – this car MAY back up. They are known to do this – you know. Should I post signs on all the doors saying Caution – if you put your fingers between the door frame and the door – you may get your fingers squished. that COULD happen. We have soda vending machines. Should we now have an entire section of our Employee Handbook dedicated to proper vending machine etiguette? If I was that company – I would take all vending machines out of the place of business.

  14. The Common Sense doctrine will only come into play after the courts have caused the bankruptcy of all American businesses through idiotic decisions like this. Appears that we are on a fast track to that now.

  15. ATM avenger says:

    And Texas gave us George W Jr., so what’s the point ?

  16. This is going way too far and the State Department of Labor departments need to start looking at this with a little more common sense. The employee took it upon himself to “hockey block” the machine………..this action does not fit in with any proper employee conduct and the employee needs to be held accountable for HIS chosen course of action. Why could they not have fought this as employee MISCONDUCT?
    If by having a policy stating “DO NOT HIT,KICK,TIP,ROCK,and or BODY SLAM the vending machines” would have saved the company……………………..OK guys/gals, sharpen your pencils and write policy letters on virtually every stupid, lane brained thing you can possible think of as some knucklehead out there will attempt it and end up suing the company for his “misfortune”.

  17. Good thing it wasn’t a coffee machine. What would he have gotten if he had fractured his hip AND spilled hot coffee on him. It’s always somebody elses fault thse days.

  18. Darlene says:


  19. Just as idiotic – The title of the piece is “Worker Attacked By Snack Machine Sues for Comp.” Seems to me the employee did the attacking! Perhaps the snack machine should sue the worker for personal assault! That makes about as much sense to me!

  20. Paying out on these cases condones stupid behavior. The courts promote that stupidity and only do harm to the people who show common sense. Money for workers comp insurance comes from company profits. Take away those profits, give it to some moron, and the rest can kiss their salary increase goodbye (at least part of it). At this point it’s the court and not the moron who shows their stupidity.

  21. He was a young man asked by a woman for help with a machine. Of course he was going to help. If he had been successful, I doubt that anyone would have faulted him. If he had not been at work, he would not have been exposed to either the machine or the situation. The ruling was correct.

  22. How far should one take the good Samaritan law. The actions taken were beyond reasonable and customary, i.e. shaking the machine. If more than one item had dislodged and taken, would that be considered petty theft?

    This whole topic and the actions of the party are rediculous. The person could have called for a refund.

  23. I believe yes he should have received workers comp. This was a company issue that was not taken care of. If your company decides to have vending machines then the company is responsible for ensuring the maintenance of that machine. I think that it is safe to assume that the HR and safety people were aware of the problems with this machine. But this also goes to show how far a guy will go to impress a woman.

  24. Scott Jackson says:

    Oh my. No wonder our country is such sad economic shape – and no wonder Circuit City is out of business.

    “Good samaritan,” huh? This is the dumbest excuse to reward stupidity that I have ever read.

  25. "Common sence" says:

    A lot of people here mention “common sence”. Come on, people, you should know better then that. In safety management we don’t say this is “common sence”. Noone has it. Instead, people have a set of individual experineces and educational background. What is common sence for one is not so to someone else. This is not to excuse the behavior of the person involved in the accident with the vending machine, but to clarify definitions.
    Company management has all the controls of the policies and procedures, they are the ones who need to know and interpet the law, it is up to them to clean this mess. They may need better lawyers next time. This is a pretty good case study, so don’t just moan, try to learn something from it 😉

  26. Richard says:

    The title of this article is absurd and misleading. The worker attacked the machine in anger – the vending company should sue him for stupidity! Most vending companies are very concerned about their machines vending reliability, providing good custmer service and generally gladly refund any money lost due to machine malfunction. What if this idiot had done this to the cash register / in company cafeteria that went on the blink?

  27. Chuck Ledbetter says:

    On first reading the artical I and a couple of my co-workers had a discussion on the topic, I said no, the worker shouldn’t get comp for his injury because it was not directly work related, after reading the reasoning that was pointed out, I have to agree with the ruling basing my opinion on the fact the Co. was aware of the vending machine’s history of faulty operiting

  28. Ok, first off….”Worker attacked by snack machine” made me laugh so loud my co-workers now think I am a bit off my rocker. What kind of compensation can I get for this?!?

    I don’t know if there are enough hours in the day/week/month/year(s) to write all of the policies to protect people from themselves. When will people be held accountable for their own actions? I am afraid we have gone so far past personal responsibility that we will never be able to go back.

  29. You’re headline is funny but misleading, of course. Yes, the guy should have gotten comp.

  30. I agree with Safety Mike. This story is just too dumb for any explanation at all! That’s what we’ve come to in America! Pretty disgusting – instead of fixing, we make it worse – no one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings with a truly honest common sense answer, like NO!

  31. Let the majority rule. The vast majority of comments echo my sentiments, namely that I can’t believe something like this is allowed to happen. Federal, state, and local governments alike view businesses as threats and target them to in order to appeal to the masses. This is counter to what their goals should be: Nurturing businesses rather than legislating in favor of stupidity would increase revenues and create jobs which in turn increases tax revenue.

    Instead I have to lay off Joe Laborer in order to hire Safety Bob to make sure all my vending machines have “Danger: Do not body slam!” decals on them.

  32. Who said the employee was young? Since he broke his hip, I would guess that he is not young. Also, if this vending issue had been going on for some time, maybe management was aware that people were getting physical with the machine. Maybe management was also participating. Maybe this was the only source of food during break time. Would any of these conditions cause any of the preceding respondants to change their opinions? What if the injured employee was instructed by his supervisor to help dislogde the item? What if it was his first day? What if it was a store owned vending machine?
    I frequently read the comments to the various safety e-zine articles. It continues to amaze me that, with minimal information given, respondants make such sweeping judgments and start grand-standing along political lines. I used to spew the same rhetoric concerning the McDonalds hot coffee-in-the-lap case until I read about the actual details of the case. Someone was doing something wrong and someone else was seriously injured. You really need the details, in context, to make a valid judgment.
    Remember, workers comp is insurance. People are not denied auto accident insurance claims because they were stupid drivers (committing crimes or being drunk is the exception). If that were the case, auto insurance would be nearly worthless.
    Employee stupidity is not a defense against workers comp benefits.

  33. J Bailey says:

    A true “Good Samaritan” would put more money in, to get out two items, not assault the machine for the goody. It is usually the most effective solution to the problem described in the incident. [Only once have I had to add a third set of money to be “even” (money vs output) with a machine, in a situation like this.] Besides making that phone call, this is that safe, simple solution to getting the goody without braking the machine, a hand, foot, hip, head or neck.

  34. Ed Goin says:

    Yes, I Igree with the Comp and the court ruling but as an employer if at all possibile that guy would be fired. He’s to dam dumb to be working for me.

  35. Editor’s note: The article doesn’t include the employee’s age, but the link to the court’s decision states that the worker was 18 in 2003, and the incident with the snack machine occurred in 2005, so he was about 20 at the time.

  36. What part of the workers compensation program is hard for many to understand? The workers compensation covered the injury and limited the employers liability. Workers Compensation is not covered by DOL or other Federal agency. It is insurance to protect the employer.

    I had an instance where we had a person working for us as part of a “return to work/ work experience” program. She slipped on a wet floor during the first 15 minutes. She was covered by the county workers compensation AND she sued our organization. Our insurance company settled out of court for about $2000. This could have been much worse. It is stated that the employer knew of the problem with the machine and there is no evidence any corrective action was taken. Of course, I see employers every day complaining of “intrusive government” and OSHA, however, when I go to their sites, I know that safety is not on the agenda until someone gets hurt. It is not uncommon for problems to go unresolved concerning storage, inoperative equipment, trip hazards, etc. And the administrators all use the mantra- “personal responsibility” and “common sense.” If they criminalized this neglect and locked away some of these administrators, then I’d believe that “personal responsibility” and “common sense” finally would be in play.

  37. Este es absolutamente ridiculo!!

  38. nascartattoo says:

    The company (Circuit City) should have been pro-active and had the machine repaired or replaced. This is another case of management holding off till someone gets hurt to fis the problem. It’s a shame that some one did get hurt before the company would take care of the root of the problem. Corportate got what they deserved by having to pay for the medical bills – be proactive – not reactive.

  39. No wonder they went out of business, bad lawyers. It should have been argued that he wasn’t ‘shaking’ the machine, but by ‘throwing his body against it’ took it upon himself to commit an act vandalism on the job, thus breaking the law and not eligible and losing his job. Although we all hate lawyers, when one’s defending me I want the most crooked, pick out the tinest technical legality and argue it to death, ambulance chasing, slimy lawyer I can get. And, unfortunately, when you really need one, a great lawyers worth his weight in gold, and they charge it too.

  40. Bob Heath says:

    NO, NO, NO, NO, NO Don’t think I can say it enough times. Your stupid you hurt yourself, tough.
    I am tired of paying for peoples stupidity.. who do these people that agree with this think pays for all this. I do, You do. NO, NO, NO, he has no brain, not my fault. Suffer on your own I owe you nothing. Vending machines have problems yes, so take them out of every place the are in the country and recycle them in to useless cars for people to buy. But don’t tell me I have to pay for someones pain and suffering because he took it upon himself to hurt himself.

  41. Robert Karp says:

    The Court Rulings are valid.

    I realize that the employees are partly at fault, however the machine had a HISTORY for causing problems with releasing its purchased items. It was known and should have been taken care of.

  42. Tom Callahan says:

    Did this machine not have one of those “DO NOT SHAKE THIS MACHINE STUPID” signs on the front of it? If so isn’t that what those were placed there for so that if someone did shake the machine the vending company wasn’t liable. And wouldn’t that also apply to this company as the end user?

  43. Terry K says:

    Yes the court made the right decision. Stupid or not has nothing to do with the decision whatsoever.
    And for all the people that have NEVER been stupid, or always used COMMON SENSE, and said NO the court made the wrong decision…, may you never be so stupid as to forget to do something like “use a handrailing” and fall down a flight of stairs, have to admit it, and maybe even request Workers Compensation. Bet you’ll hope they rule in your favor, “STUPID ” or not.

  44. Mac Maclaren says:

    What’s called for here is good sense – which is certainly not common.

  45. Applying common sense would require thinking. Unfortunately the employees right and need to think has all but been stripped away by judges and government agencies requiring businesses to author, publish, and enforce procedures addressing nearly every situation. Welcome to kindergarten. I wonder what the individual involved in this incident and others like him are teaching or not teaching their children. Watch out world “Caution Failure to Lower Toilet Seat May Result in Personal Injury” See your Supervisor for further instruction.

  46. I dream of Genie says:

    Este es absolutamente ridiculo!!!!!!!!

  47. "Common sence" says:

    If dumb Joe Laborer hits the vending machine with his body, he will get away with it 599 times. The 600th time he will get his hip cracked. Of course management was aware of this and didn’t take any measures. Maybe they do need “safety Bob” to tell them what to do since they don’t know the Labor law themselves.

  48. Since when does not holding a handrail or being involved in an accident involving carelessness compare to ramming a large metal object with ones body? The employee went out of his way to whack the vending machine. Work comp was originally created to address people injured while working, or going about their duties at work. Unfortunately as happens with many government initiated programs when activist courts get involved, well intended programs get stretched well beyond the original intentions.

  49. You can’t teach common sense!

  50. Welcome to the lovely world of Illinois workers comp. Logic, reason, and common sense do not apply.

  51. I wonder about the common sense of the person who went through a high rise window while demonstrating that the glass was unbreakable? I wonder if their heirs got any compensation?

  52. The whole “history of not working properly” really has me irked here. Its a freaking vending machine. Its not like they had an emergency stop cord that keeps getting stuck.

    Perhaps they thought that if the candy got stuck, the employees would quit stuffing their face. By all means, they wouldn’t be allowed to take the machines away for fear of being sued for starvation. If they were forcing the employees to hockey-check the machine, then great, they should pay for it. However if some idiot wants to show off for a girl, don’t come complaining when you get hurt doing it.

  53. What a ridiculous ruling. How does the “Good Samaritan” doctrine apply in any way to this situation? This was NOT a true emergency, there was no life-threatening or even remotely serious situation that required assistance, and the “assistance” rendered was certainly not reasonable, or provided with reasonable care. True, if there was a history of problems with the vending machine, it should have been dealt with promptly — but in no way is a property-damaging blow to the machine a reasonable response. What if someone tackles a public vending machine to get a snack out and gets hurt doing it? Do they get to sue the owner of the vending machine because of an injury caused by their own reckless action? I would see legitimate grounds for terminating the employee for abusing company property, work comp claim or not.

  54. INSANE beyond description! Just keep waving those USA jobs good-bye.

    Should have been a medical insurance claim.

  55. Circuit City should subrogate the claim against the vending company responsible for operation of the unit, then pull all of the vending units out of the facility….Employees are not entitled to catered snacks; have them bring their own stuff. You know what they say about one bad apple!!!

  56. If he “hockey checked” the machine with his shoulder how did this 20 year old show off manage to break his hip? Hockey players wear protective gear – this clown should have been fired for not using proper PPE.

  57. This is to “Common Sence [Sense]”:

    What in the heck are we supposed to learn from this? That we should put signs on every single object in the workplace that states what you ‘should’ or ‘should not’ do with it? That we shouldn’t employ people and should instead purchase robots that don’t file work comp claims?

    There comes a point where you have to realize that this sort of thing is making it more and more expensive to employ people in the US. And folks wonder why jobs have gone overseas…

  58. So I guess that anyone in a position of management reading this article should take the “real” lesson to heart here. Since the “evil” vending machine “attacked” the worker, I guess they should decree that all vending machines in all companies should be removed, to “prevent” this “horrible” attack from ever happening again! I’m sure employees everywhere will be grateful that their management has taken this step to secure their future safety. Aftert all, it’s for their own good. Hahahaha. Just like a lot of things in life, it takes only one fool to spoil it for all the rest of us. Welcome to the nanny state.

  59. who hasn’t lost money in a vending machine or pay phone reported it and never received reimbursement? have you ever tried to put in more money only to lose both amounts? sure it was stupid to use his body as a battering ram, but he is paying the price with the continual pain that he apparently is suffering. the bottom line is that they share the responsiblity, he with the physical disability ( the bigger penalty ) and the company in the workmans comp claim.

  60. In my opinion he should have received nothing. I would like to see his job description that says part of his duties include unjamming the vending machine for other employees or customers. Since when is ramming a vending machine with a “hockey player like check” in the “scope and course” of ones job duties? Sounds like violence in the workplace to me and the employee should have been terminated for violating the company’s policy on violence. Then the vending company should have pressed charges against him for vandalizing the vending machine.

    This is exactly the “BS” that causes all of our insurance rates to rise and is ridiculous to have given him comp.

  61. I agree with Jay Baily, it makes sense to just add more money to push the desired product out, and may be even chivalruos if what he was doing was trying impress.

  62. this guy should not receive workmans comp. for being stupid and aggresive, he should be charged with assaulting the machine (property of some one else). There is a process to get your money back or to report the problem. We live in a society where people think they are entitled to things they have not earned. perhaps this guy shouold go live in a third world country for awhile and get an attitude adjsutment on the freedoms that we enjoy here in the USA. Shame on him for being so irresponsible. in the words of Jeff Foxworthy…Here’s your sign!

  63. For those of you who are using terms such as “stupid,” “lacking common sense,” and such, I can only assume that you are referring to management’s involvement and not the injured workers. How stupid and uncaring can a manager be when he won’t get a historically defective vending machine replaced? The problem with most supervisors is that they will not act unless something personally affects them – and then they cry about it like it’s the end of the world. If these companies had the simple foresight to just replace the vending machines the injuries would not have occurred. It’s not rocket science! It’s obvious that many are promoted to supervisory positions without the common sense required of that level. Those people, and many of you commenting here, would never be promoted in my company.

    BTW Joan: Yes, if someone is injured by a public vending machine they can sue the owner. Whether they win or not will depend upon the circumstances. Also, terminating an employee for abusing company equipment would be seen as retaliation – valid or not. It would also open up a can of worms since defining abusing equipment is difficult and must be applied uniformly. So if you slam the phone down after a frustrating call you need to be terminated just like the idiot that hip checked the vending machine. It’s a slippery slope – but one created by unethical employers that have saddled the rest of us with the costs.

  64. If by having a policy stating “DO NOT HIT, KICK, TIP, ROCK, and or BODY SLAM the vending machines” would have saved the company……………………..OK guys/gals, sharpen your pencils and write policy letters on virtually every stupid, lane brained thing you can possible think of as some knucklehead out there will attempt it and end up suing the company for his “misfortune”.

    As good as Kevin tried with his policy statement above, he forgot HEAD BUTT and probably something else. There is no way anyone but the idiot that hurts him/her self by stupid actions should be held responsible. If you insert coins and push the buttons and get electrocuted or the machine falls on you, then you have some recourse. I can’t believe some people actually think low IQ “entitles” dummies to live off other peoples hard earned money.

  65. Dean Caudle says:

    Perhaps Circuit City can counter sue for denting/destroying the company property? I can not imagine hitting the machine hard enough to break his hip and not destroy the machine?

    How come he did not sue for mental duress from the awful machine destroying his life?

    How come the girl did not get sued for enticing the individual or better yet for not stopping the dangerous action?

    We should all know by now, there is no such thing as common sense!

    At one company I worked at the machines would all be gone the next day!

  66. Robert Karp says:

    It doesn’t say the machine was damaged.

    It is the company’s responsibility to make safety idiot proof within the company.

    To Callahan: I looked at the vending machines in my company. The Soda machine has a sticker on it that says do not shake. The vending machine for munchies did not have a sticker. That is something, as the Safety Manager of my company, will take up with the person that services the vending machines.

    This is something that everyone takes for granted and that includes all of you self-righteous people.

    When the machine takes someone’s money and leaves the merchandise hang there, every person I’ve seen it happen too, shakes the machine to get it. So there isn’t a doubt in my mind that says anyone here that says they don’t is lying. That includes the judges that decided on this matter.

    So now we go through years of never hearing about an incident of anyone getting hurt shaking the machine and all of a sudden we have someone shaking the machine and getting hurt. First time for everything.

    It is the company’s responsibility to set the rules for the employees to follow. The company is supposed to post signs and diligently enforce the rules. If everybody else is shaking the machine, then they can’t very well write this individual up for getting hurt. A 20 year old is going to follow the example of all the other employees. That is why some good Samaritan thought nothing of helping someone asking for help.

    That is why the company has to go through with providing workman’s comp. Because the company was negligent and will have to reimburse their workman’s comp insurance, which is what they didn’t want to do. It is a reportable incident.

  67. Someone said “What about the Common Sense Doctrine?”. Sad to say…the law is not based on Common Sense. The Common Sense and the Law should not even be in the same sentance. I think most workers comp laws even exclude the Assumption of Risk as a means of ineligibility for comp.

  68. Our laws and Judges are way out of control.

    We need to bear responsability for our own actions.
    Quit sueing for our own stupidity and quit expecting someone else paying for our irresponsability
    Ie spilling coffee on your lap etc. or the Lady putting her motor home on cruise control and went to make coffe while unit was traveling down the freeway at 70 MPH She was awadred a huge sum when it crashed and rolled. Stupid Stupid Judges.

  69. Mac Maclaren says:

    It was a true emergency if chocolate was involved.

  70. There are several things I see here. I agree with an earlier statement that common sense is not common. I also see vending machines as a convienence provided by the employee, not an employee right. One would think that the employee could forsee potential injury body slamming the machine, and while I can empathize with his pain and suffering, I do not see that it fits either “comfort”, or “good samaritan” requirements. What I do not hear in statements is the fact that there are many who acknowledge that this act occurs on a fairly frequent and what appears to be a widespread basis. We have not only injury, but in at least one case a fatality reported from these machines. This is way beyond “Near Miss” issues in the work place. Perhaps in the 4 E’s (education, engineering, enforcement, and evaluation), we have missed an opportunity. I see an engineering opportunity here. Anchoring machines to the floor would prevent tip over injury and potential, but not the “body slam injury”. Another solution would be to stop providing vending machines for convienence and promote a healthier work force by removing the machines and encouraging employees think ahead and bring thier own snacks, it’s cheaper and affords greater selection.

  71. Darren K. says:

    I find it hard to believe that all who disagree with this ruling would have ,themselves, just walked away from the vending machine without trying to get their snack. Common sense would tell me to have the machine fixed the first we knew it wasn’t working right because I don’t want my workers wrestling with 500 lbs of metal and chips.So, the fact that they were aware it wasn’t working right puts the responsibility on the company to take it out of service themselves or have it fixed….or wait till someone gets hurt! They got this one right.

  72. Darren K. – the question isn’t about someone just trying to get something from a snack machine. Who hasn’t banged on one, or shaken it? The question is why is it the company’s fault when a 20 year old hits it hard enough to break his hip. I’m sure most of us on here have been hurt in some way while doing something carelessley at some time in our lives. Few of us (based on the comments) would have gone looking for someone else to pay for our mistake that did not relate to performing our jobs.

    There is generally a procedure in place to get money back when things get stuck in machines. It’s not because of a uniquely defective product, the standard design on these things seems to make stuck items a relatively common occurance, so it wasn’t the employer’s job to fix it. There is very likely no way that this related to the person’s job description, so if he wasn’t acting in the line of duty, he should not receive compensation for his own knuckheaded act.

  73. Most companies use vending machines that are owned and maintained by a vending company. There is nothing saying that management was not addressing the issue. Most managers can not just snap there fingers and have all problems completely fixed. This very well may have been an ongoing issue usually caused by people that do not know how to load the machine or have simply made a mistake in their effort to load the machine. At any rate the vending company would have a stake in this I would think. In this suit happy society I am just surprised the maker of the goody wasn’t sued for the poor packaging that allowed it to get stuck.


  74. “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass—a idiot. ”

    Sad to say, the judge DID get this one right. However, not for the reasons stated in previous posts. The fact is, the person was injured at work – period, end of discussion. This case catches our attention because of employee stupidity and a vending machine. However, many people get hurt at work being stupid while doing their regular tasks and get workers’ comp. WHY? Because they were on the job – period. The law is not about what is logical, right, or sensible. The law is about justice. the law is about the law!

  75. It is “work related” because you need to eat while you’re at work. Like the judge said, the good Samaritan rule applied because he was helping his co-worker retrieve the snack. Putting more money in it would not get the item unstuck. I think the judge made a reasonable decision here. The company might pony up the dough to get the snack machine fixed. Because you gotta admit, one of the most annoying things at work during your precious short lunch period is trying to use a vending machine that’s been broken for years, and the company still won’t get it fixed, or get the vendor to fix it.

  76. Workers’ compensation has always and will continue to pay for stupidity. Workers’ comp is for the employee and the employee only. It does not allow for the employer and never has. Workers’ Comp writes rules and regulations but to date I still do not see where they follow them. Only the employer has to follow and then some.

  77. Now that i’ve had a chance to cool down from my Juune 15, 3:10 pm. comment and my somewhat crude statements about the situation in question. I would like to add that when a Vending machine or device at work regaurdles of it’s function does malfunction while i am operating it. I use (LOGIC) and report it to my supervisor and or Personel Office so my employer can notify the vending Company and have refunds left at the front office to be given to supervisors to be distributed to the employee who lost their money. All vending companys have this arrangement with the ones they serve. I respect those who are thinking disibilities and from the info. presented i don’t think this was the case.

    Also if he payed any attentiion to his Safety Thaining he would put (LOGIC) into practice that says, if it malfunctions don’t use it. Report it to your Supervisor.

  78. It seems that many people are upset with the terms used. I wonder how many business owners would promote the elimination of workers compensation and let all claims be settled in court? Remember that once workers compensation is eliminated, then every employee has the right to sue (which they don’t have now) and it will cost at least $1000 per claim for your attorney to respond with paperwork. Much more if it goes to trial and that is not even with a verdict one way or the other. So every scratch, bruise, strain and sprain is now fair game. Oh, HR has to do all the paperwork as the normal course of the work day because we are all exempt salaried, right?

    This is the “cost of doing business.” A smart employer who stands to survive this economic crisis would look at this and see if people are getting complacent about safety. Why was the vending machine malfunctioning for so long? Why did an employee feel it was prudent to slam his body against the machine rather than report it or get maintenence?

  79. Charlene says:

    Good Smaritan or not, when are the laws going to change that the employee has to take some responsibility for their actions. I have never seen a vending machine or company policy posted that said DO NOT KICK, PUNCH, SLAM, HIT a vending machine. Come on! I think the vending machine company should turn around and sue the employee for intentional abuse to machine. Items get caught up in vending machines ALL the time. Packaging sizes change, bottles shapes change all the time which are going to cause items to get stuck sometimes. What will eventually happen is that companies will pull all the vending machines out of their facilities and you can just bring your own. You need to eat, bring your OWN food.

  80. Darren K. says:

    Paul, although the act was not very smart, there’s”generally a procedure” in our company to fix things immediately or take them out of service when not working properly. Granted it’s a vending machine but that’s the companies responsibility once it agreed to offer such conviences. It’s no different then a leaky water fountain or a standing fan that rattles. It may not be directly related to the persons job functions but if the company allows them to exist they are responsible to make sure they are maintained.If you ignore that it’s not working properly then you can’t fault someones actions in dealing with the shoddy equipment. Bottom line, if they fixed it when they knew it wasn’t working right they wouldn’t be out a worker and a lot of money.

  81. First I don’t believe he should recieve comp for such a stupid act but… From experience with my employer and the vending company they choose to use, I do understand the frustation involved when a vending company won’t properly load or maintain the machine and the employer won’t stop using that vending company because our VP is good freinds with the owner of the vending company. (See a problem arising here?) So instead of fixing the problem of the machines jambing several times a day my employer has me install a camera system to catch who is beating the crud out of the machines. This brings me to my last point, buy your snacks at Sams Club or Costco, it’s cheaper, usually much less of a hassle, and you don’t have to dig up any change.

  82. Yes, workers compensation protects both the employer and the employee. That is great when it is used properly. There needs to be a line drawn somewhere, somehow, against people being stupid and hurting themselves. How are employers supposed to stay in business when their cost of insurance is being driven up by people who don’t protect themselves? Now they have an employee that has injured themselves, is going to sit on the sidelines as long as they can getting something and not giving anything, and can’t be fired because then it is harrasment.

    I understand that this is used to protect the employees from being dropped like a hot potato when something goes wrong. I also understand that there are many people who use it like it is supposed to be used and only file valid claims and get back to work as soon as they are able. But you know as well as I do that there are too many people who take advantage of the ability to screw the system and take advantage of someone elses hard work.

  83. Common sence? Try spelling it correctly ( sense ).

  84. I do not think this employee deserved comp for such a stupid thing such as slamming his body into a vending machine. Like a person previously wrote, are we going to have to start putting signs out and publishing policies for the stupidest, most obvious things that people should generally have the common sense not to do? Also, someone previously wrote that the company is responsible for the maintenance of the machines. The company is responsible for calling for someone, the vendor of the machines (since normally the company does not actually own the mahchines) to maintain the machines. Since he did receive work comp, this could also mean subrogation could be involved if the company can prove the vendor wasn’t properly taking care of the machines or if there was no safety warning on the machines saying “do not throw your body into the machines or you may injury yourself.” See how ridiculous and drawn out this could be because of the lack of common sense. My point is, the court needs to be more strict on stupidity or people will never learn to watch out for their own actions. The work comp system is setup to assist employees who have actual compensable injuries and I believe this situation was not compensable.

  85. Darren K. says:

    Maybe the employees should put a sticker on the machine stating that it has a history of not working right since management doesn’t have the “common sense” to call for maintainence or take it of service.A simple phone call to the vending company is all it takes. By not doing anything ,their letting the employees use a machine that might rip them-off or risk having the employees try on their own to retrieve whats theirs. I wonder how the courts would have decided on compensation if the machine had no history of malfunctioning and this was an isolated case.At least then I wouldn’t feel it was managements fault for ignoring the issue.

  86. James T says:

    You know the problem here is that there was so much stupidity involved in this event. The employee didn’t use common sense by hip checking the vending machine and so DOESN’T deserve workers comp. But the company didn’t use common sense by allowing a defective machine to remain in operation so the employee DOES deserve workers comp. As a business owner, I put the onus on the company in this case. So many people commenting here seem to think the only person who didn’t use common sense or logic was the employee. But, as managers, doesn’t common sense and logic tell you that some employees may have irrational responses to a situation like this? Maybe we as managers – being of supposedly higher intelligence – would just walk away and get our money back. But not everyone is as “smart” as we are or thinks like we do. That’s why managers are paid more and have more responsibility. So for those of you who think that one should be responsible for their own actions, you are correct. And in this case the company’s actions created a hazardous condition, so they must be responsible for those actions.

  87. It seems like the big issue for a lot of people here is the “defective” machine. While the spiral dispenser is not the most effective design (who hasn’t seen a bag of chips get stuck on one of these), it is a very common mechanism for vending machines. It may be frustrating, but that does not make it defective. This is why most places with vending machines have a system in place for getting people their money back; stuck bags just happen! This is the equivalent of someone breaking their hand after hitting a wall in frustration over something. It’s not “in the line of duty”, and its not an inherently hazardous situation. Just someone who is getting paid for his own stupid mistake (I’ve made my share of dumb mistakes, things can happen to anyone).

  88. Thank you Paul! At last a voice of reason and common sense.

  89. Observer says:

    First of all, I would like to say that we keep change on hand for vending machine jams and call the vendor to correct any errors. Second, I would like to say that this article has done its job. It got a disucssion going which is usually more helpful then the information itself and a lot of good points are brought up and should be thought about. Luckily, my company has something in place for this situation but those that don’t should take a look and try to implement something to prevent it from happening to them (maybe not as extreme as some of the previous suggestions). Also, before I get to my decision about this situation, I would like to say that…it’s Circuit City. Who would have thought that safety training would be needed to be a sales person? Perhaps during the employment process a few points were brought up, possibly about lifting heavy items, but were probably never visited again. So, unlike manufacturing companies where safety is beaten into them, they probably didn’t have safety on the brain.
    Now, as far as did the courts make the right decision?? I truely don’t know. It’s a very tough one because yes, the employer should have fixed the machine, but, that was not a job related task. What is that employee was clocked out? But he was on company property. Too many details come into play here which make it very difficult to determine the right outcome.

  90. Angelia says:

    I have quietly and patiently read through every comment on this page and I can’t believe the division among Safety/HR professionals this article has caused. Yes, the injury did occur at work, and yes, workers comp is for that purpose. But for crying out loud! Do you think, just maybe, the increased WC reserves for paying for stupid stunts like this may have contributed, in part, albeit a small part, to Circuit City going out of business?

    And the “history” of the machine has nothing to do with it! (Thank you, Becky). It’s a bloody vending machine; it did not fall on him, electrocute him, or suck him into some massive void in time and space. It did not lack proper machine guarding, it did not require LOTO, and it was certainly not an ergonomics issue. It did not present a slip/trip/fall hazard. It did move mysteriously in his direction, with a sudden release of potential energy. There were no permits involved, no air quality issues, no EPA violations, and no OSHA violations. In short, it was NOT a hazard until… HE slammed IT to retrieve a snacky! He did not slam it to save someone’s life. He did not slam it to save damage to company property or profit. He SLAMMED it to retrieve a snacky!…history of malfunction or not! But now I am becoming repetitious (and frustrated) and I digress…

    How many small business owners have been forced out of business due to increased insurance rates and fees (the insurance trade spreads out increased premiums over given areas/business categories to compensate for extensive payouts and workers comp is no different…if you don’t believe that, ask anyone in Louisiana/Mississippi, post Katrina, trying to renew their homeowners policy). And not to put too fine a point on stupidity and the law…I was riding my bike at night, had a backpack (unsecured) over my shoulder (this was the stupid part); the pack slipped down my arm and lodged in the front wheel. I flew over the handlebars, hit the pavement, and broke my jaw. The next day, a lawyer called my house and asked if I wanted to sue the city. “For my own stupidity?”, I questioned. “Sure, why not? You could get 50 or 60 grand, easy”, he said. “It won’t even go to court…they’ll just settle”. I hung up the phone.

    I wonder how much Mr. Hockeyman is walking away with after the ruling. I wonder why it took so long to file a claim (the articles states “years later”). Is there not a statute of limitations on claims for “work” injuries in Illinois? How does retrieving a snacky (I really like that word), qualify as the act of “Good Samaritanship”? Since he was retrieving the snacky for a lady friend, did he sue her (as it was really all her fault, in the first place….she should have just coughed up more dough or called in for a refund)? Maybe if the manufacturer of the snacky had made the packaging more “vending machine” friendly, it wouldn’t have stuck. The “what if” game can go on for days….but again, I digress.

    I agree, Mike; WC insurance is designed to pay for injuries that occur as a result of “work” (hence the name and definition – workers’ compensation: a system of insurance that reimburses an employer for damages that must be paid to an employee for injury occurring in the course of employment) and protect employers from frivolous and ridiculous law suits, as well as protect employees from non-compliant companies who fail to “protect” their workers from known hazards. I don’t think any employer in his/her right mind would think of doing away with it. Was slamming a vending machine in his job description as a course of employment? I don’t think so…I think the court missed the boat on this one (as if you couldn’t tell).

    Ps- I’m putting signage on all our vending machines….TODAY!

  91. Becky- You make a good point “How are employers supposed to stay in business when their cost of insurance is being driven up by people who don’t protect themselves? Now they have an employee that has injured themselves, is going to sit on the sidelines as long as they can getting something and not giving anything, and can’t be fired because then it is harrasment.”

    You can and should discipline the employee if he violated policy or procedure. The Workers Compensation program exists to limit the employer liability from employee injury claims. If employees violate policies, they will most likely be covered, but they are not then exempted from discipline. You need to show in your discipline what was violated and be consistent with all your workers to limit your liability for a “retaliation claim.”

    Most employers that are pro-active and train their employees and hold them to the safety standards have lower accident rates and lower worker compensation premiums. Those employers who just gripe and take no action generally pay higher rates and are at risk of going out of business.

  92. "Common sense" says:

    You can argue all you want but if you don’t understand labor law that’s going to cause you a lot of aggravation in the future. The court decision was right based on the present law, the judge is there to uphold the law, not to think in terms of your so called “common sense”.
    If you DO wish to learn something from this, you could start with OSHA’s General Duty clause.
    Yes, employer has to provide safe work environment and sometimes that means safe from employees themselves. If a company neglects unsafe act done by employees routinely – company doesn’t deserve to be in business, period.

  93. “Common sense” – How is an employer supposed to prepare for an employee intentionally ramming himself into a large, fixed, metal object? This was not an unsafe environment (as the “attacked by a vending machine” headline indicates) that the employer had a “general duty” to protect employees from. It was a situation the employee put himself into, outside of the scope of his job duties.

    If this was a correct decision based on current labor law, then it is also a sad commentary on the law that encourages laziness and passing blame to anyone but the responsible party.

  94. What is the difference between this and an employee doing the same thing against a locked door or a wall for that matter? Do we have to put signs up on all of that too?

  95. To Paul- “How is an employer supposed to prepare for an employee intentionally ramming himself into a large, fixed, metal object?” That is why workers compensation is there, to help a business deal with these “unforseen” incidents and continue to operate. As can be seen from the discussion thus far, the respondents have many different thoughts in this case. Some feel that the employer should have fixed the vending machine and was negligent. Some feel that it was totally forseeable that a young man feeling ripped off might try to get his candy bar by body checking a machine, especially with a cute coworker watching. Some feel that the employer is totally blameless. Without workers comp, you could end up in court trying to sell your point of view to the same people responding to this article and paying an arm and a leg to your attorneys. The outcome could go either way, so you want to gamble?

    I agree that there are many stupid things that employees do that get them hurt. Sometimes their logic defies explanation. It is good to know that they will be taken care of and the liability for the company is limited. To keep the costs down, I spend a lot of time encouraging safety and taking care of broken or damaged equipment as soon as possible. Accidents will still happen and each time its an opportunity to learn how to prevent it for the future. Its good to know that the company won’t go bankrupt defending itself in court.

  96. Darren K. says:

    What would be everyones reaction if the employee simply gave the machine a shove with both open hands (I’m sure everyones done it once or twice) to shake loose their bounty and in return sprained a wrist? Is that still considered too stupid of an act to gain compensation? Knowing there was persistant complaints about the machine jamming could management forsee that somone might try something to get their snack out?

  97. Time for Change says:

    In response to “Common sense” June 17th, @ 9:34 am
    The General Duty Clause applies to recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. I don’t see how being deprived of your bag of Fritos places you directly in harms way. There was no threat of death or serious physical harm until the knight in shinning armor decided to do his throw his body into the vending machine.

  98. Let’s not forget: where it happened, on private property; there was a known problem with the machine, should have put it out of service; if there isn’t a policy, there is no protection. Granted, if it was me and I knew the machine had issues.. I wouldn’t put any money in there.

  99. Tired Of It says:

    I think we have beaten this dead horse long enough!!!

  100. Contributing to the delinquency of an employee?..

    Time for Change Says:

    June 17th, 2009 at 2:32 pm
    In response to “Common sense” June 17th, @ 9:34 am
    The General Duty Clause applies to recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. I don’t see how being deprived of your bag of Fritos places you directly in harms way. There was no threat of death or serious physical harm until the knight in shinning armor decided to do his throw his body into the vending machine.

    Actually if the knight in shining armor would have got the chips, would that actually put the company in violation of the general duty clause “recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” also? Chips are known to cause health problems and even put a great number of people with underlying health problems in harms way every day. I guess from the view of the employer, you just can’t win this one.

  101. Jon @ 9:20 –
    I am afraid the employer can’t win much anymore. We spend so much time and money to cover our rumps that its hard to actually get anything done.

    I think that is why everyone seems so bitter about this. Its just one more thing to look out for. No longer can we plan for the worst and hope for the best. There is no more hoping for the best, its just not out there. The laws have gone so far to “protect the employee” that the employee now runs the show.

  102. the company isn’t responsible for the vending machines, the owner of the vending machines is responsible for them. it seems to me the worker should have gotten in trouble for abusing the equipment. had he hip-checked a machine inside the plant itself, and gotten hurt, would he get comp? probably not. it just seems that abusing a vending machine isn’t considered an incorrect behavior. if there was a problem with the vendor, they should have called-not taken it upon themselves to abuse someone else’s property that’s there for their convenience, not there to be beat up, be shaken, etc. and as someone wrote above, those machines are indeed heavy, and can injure or kill you if they fall on you.

    but, it would behoove all companies to now let their employees know not to shake the machines-that it’s against company policy. that way, if another yahoo decides to break his hip over a .50 cent bag of chips, he can’t get comp for doing so.

  103. To Becky- “I am afraid the employer can’t win much anymore. We spend so much time and money to cover our rumps that its hard to actually get anything done.”

    If you look at this as a win-lose proposition, then there will always be bitterness and anger over how it was handled.

    Someone got hurt on the job using equipment that was known to have problems using questionable judgment. The Workers Compensation system covers this. The employer could have fixed (or removed the machines), trained its employees to seek management whenever there is a problem with any equipment, and moved on.

    The company, however, decided that it was right and workers compensation should not be used to cover the employee’s injuries and contested the case in order to win and be proved “right.” I suspect that there were lawyers advising this company who had car payments due, because it doesn’t seem that they were advised that if this was not a workers compensation case, then the company could be opened up to civil liability (which could cost the company even more). Best case scenario was the worker being covered by workers comp. Worse case scenario, the workers compensation case is thrown out and the employee is allowed to sue the employer directly. The Workers Compensation Commission and the Appelate Court gave Circuit City the heads up and that this was a workers compensation case, but Circuit City didn’t think this through. Maybe Circuit City should sue their lawyers for incompetent representation (unless the lawyers told them and Circuit City Managment decided to fight the case because they felt they were right).

  104. James T says:

    As a business owner I am shocked at the lack of understanding of workers comp law that has been exhibited here by supposed HR/safety professionals. There’s a big difference between what is and what should be. Too many comments are emotion-based – which you all should have learned by now has no place in these type discussions. The facts of the case support an award. Yes, the employee was wrong for many reasons, but so was management. If you want to discipline the employee for anything related to this incident you must also discipline any manager that knew of the situation with the vending machine and allowed it to go uncorrected. Cut and dried.
    For those of you who think this may have contributed to Circuit City going out of business, you are 100% correct. Poor management always leads to failure. Let’s hope we can all learn from this and become better managers.

  105. Read it again. Nowhere in the original information regarding this case is there any indication that anyone in MANAGEMENT knew anything about this problem. More information is needed to weigh in on this subject since it hinges in great part on the weak statement about this being a “known” problem.

  106. Tired Of It says:

    Has ANYbody NOT had a snack from a vending machine hang up and not be dispensed properly? I am sure virtually EVERYone has experienced this at least one. With new snacks and packaging designs coming on the market almost daily, this issue is not uncommon. Now, imagine yourself as a manager dealing with customer issues, production issues, real safety issues, etc. and someone comes up to you wringing their hands and says, “Oh, woe is me! My snack hung up in the candy machine! What is management going to do to address this crisis?” I don’t think this is going to be very high on ANY reasonable person’s “Things To Do” list other than perhaps call the vending company. Stop making this an evil management issue!!! Remember the “law is a ass”, but the law is the law. The injury happened at work, regardless of the IQ of the employee, so it is covered by the Comp laws. If I were the plant manager, I would assure that there was a refund policy in place and that every employee knew that vending machines are a clear hazard to anyone abusing them and that the next incident involving a vending machine (including someone shaking the machine) would result of the removal of ALL vending machines. After all, removing all hazards is the best (though not always the most practical) way to prevent injuries.

  107. Tired, I think that may be the wisest and most well rounded reply here yet. It doesn’t make silly claims sit any better with us, but the fact is it IS the law as it stands.

  108. Worker’s Comp limits the company liability for worker injuries. It would cover employee’s juggling staplers in the office or changing light bulbs while standing on work desk. I am sure that the company disciplined this employee for abusing the equipment and not following appropriate procedures for reporting malfunctioning equipment.

  109. These type of incidents happen more often than anyone would like. There are more concerns and less the people see about the provisions that we have in place for workers comp cases… for one the company should have “do not shake or rock vending machines” posted (liability reasons). Yes, this person may have been a fool by taking it upon himself, but thats why a company needs to post things like this up. It was not the fault of the company, but workers comp. should be paid as that it why we have it there in the first place. Most injuries are caused by mistakes or cutting corners, this guy was probably trying to impress his female co-worker, then was embarassed by the outcome. When your laying on the floor in pain (probably in the fetal position) could potentially get embarassing, but my major concern is… Did it work, did he get the chips unstuck?

  110. As an office manager, my first thought was “how stupid is this person?” Common sense tells me that you don’t mess with something that is bigger than you are – tell someone with authority so they can report the problem to the vendor or put a note on the machine advising of its problem. I’m amazed with people not using common sense and then wonder why they are caught in difficult situations.

    Should Worker’s Compensation cover this person’s medical costs? That’s a tough question because of the legality of what is a legitimate claim. Personally, I would have been embarrassed to have reported the incident to my supervisor and then expect my employer to cover my medical expenses.

    Should the court have awarded this person with worker’s compensation when it was his responsibility for not using commen sense? Absolutely not. No wonder legitimate worker’s compensation claims are hard to win.

  111. Barbara Hall says:

    From what I see, most people do not have any common sence. And as Kevin U says, you can’t teach common sence. Sad but true, you have to take the people and lead them by the hand.

  112. KEVIN OREGON says:

    The law errors a majority on the side of W.C. insurers.

    Wake up people. It’s the insurance companies that rule. In Oregon if you have a W.C. claim. They can force you to see the insurance company’s pool of selected doctor’s or (Doctors within the managed care organization MCO.

    If you run into someone, you can’t pick the doctors they and can’t see.

    If someone falls on your property you can’t (limit selection) pick either.


  113. Hip checking a vending machine and then collecting workmen’s comp? I can’t imagine why the workmen’s comp rates are as high as they are. Welcome to our very confused society.
    Thomas Anthony

  114. Anne-Marie says:

    When Shaking or body checking a machine is needed…the machine should be fixed! If everyone knew the machine had problems, why wasnt it fixed? As for the guy who did the whole “hero” thing, he deserved what he got, and should not have been compensated for it either. So if I kick a tire on a company vehicle because it isnt running smooth…does that mean I get big bucks??? good grief…..grow up people!!

  115. Tackling the vending machine was NOT part of his job. He just happened to be at work, at the time.
    What if he had tackled a vending machine in a public place. . . who would he sue, then? He could sue the owner of the vending machine or the property owner. In that case would comparative negligence apply? Think about it.
    The vending machine owner is liable for maintaining the machine. If it is malfunctioning, put up a note saying you lost 50 cents and call the vending company. Or, stuff in another 50 cents to dislodge the first bag of chips. This often works. If the machine continues to malfunction have the vending company replace the machine or remove it altogether. No way should this guy’s employer be responsible for his stupidity via work comp. He didn’t tackle the machine as part of his job duties nor did his employer request that he perform this act of stupidity. He should have used his own health insurance for treatment.


  1. […] City employee Clinton Dwyer filed a workers’ comp claim after fracturing his hip while trying to shake loose a bag of chips from the break room vending […]

  2. […] A man working at Circuit City responded to a female co-worker when she asked him to help her break free chips that were stuck in a vending machine. The initial shake didn’t work. He then decided to hockey check the machine. In doing so he fell back and fractured his hip. The company fought against the claim, but he was able to fight back with the “personal comfort doctrine”. This doctrine states that at work employees actions are covered if they are related to personal comforts like eating or using the restroom. However, the court surprised by applying the good Samaritan doctrine instead. Because he was helping a coworker and the company did not fix the vending machine which had a persistent problem, the court ruled in favour of the man with the fractured hip. […]

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