A painter drank a fair amount of alcohol at work, took a nap, woke up and then fell down an elevator shaft. He applied for workers’ comp benefits, and his employer sought to deny them. How did a court rule in this case?
According to court documents, Shane Wood was a painter for Karr Painting and Decoration Inc. in Utah. One day he was painting the interior of a three-story Salt Lake City home that had an empty elevator shaft running from the first to third floor.
According to a co-worker, Wood spent the morning painting. Then at about 2 p.m., he started drinking alcohol and in two hours consumed a small bottle of whiskey and more than half a fifth of vodka. By 4 p.m. he had stopped working and took a nap in a closet for two hours.
After he woke up, he went up to the second floor but didn’t resume any work. He fell into the elevator shaft and suffered injuries.
When this case was heard the first time, an administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded Wood workers’ comp benefits because his injuries occurred at his job site during the workday.
On appeal, the Utah Labor Commission Appeals Board reversed the ALJ’s decision because he wasn’t fulfilling work duties and wasn’t engaged in an activity related to his work duties.
Wood took his case to the Utah Court of Appeals. He argued that his nap after drinking on the job didn’t constitute a departure from the course of his employment.
However, the appeals court agreed with the Board, saying there was no other reasonable interpretation of Woods’ activities — he had stopped working when he took the nap.
Next, Wood argued that even if he did leave the course of his employment during his nap, he returned to work when he woke up and began moving around the house, which was the job site.
Once again, the appeals court agreed with the Board that “in the short period between the time Mr. Wood awoke and the time he fell down the elevator shaft, there is no reasonable basis to conclude that Mr. Wood returned to his work duties or was engaged in any activity incidental to his work.”
Verdict: No comp for Wood.
(Wood v. Karr Painting and Decoration, Utah Court of Appeals, No. 20100932-CA, 1/26/12)