A worker whose job it was to collect overdue cable TV bills, disconnect service and retrieve cable boxes was assaulted while disconnecting service at an apartment complex. Is he eligible for workers’ comp coverage?
On the day of the assault, Frank Moorefield Jr. had seen two men at the apartment complex, and thought he had spoken to one of them four weeks earlier about an unpaid bill. At that time, the man said he didn’t have the money to pay the bill and he returned his cable box to Moorefield.
Moorefield had gone behind a building to disconnect cable service for another apartment. When he returned to the front of the building, one of the two men struck Moorefield with a heavy metal object, possibly a gun or pipe. He fell to the ground, and both men kicked him in the head and then left.
The men had taken his wallet, but they didn’t take the money he had collected that day for the cable company which was in his front pocket.
Moorefield sought temporary total disability benefits, a disfigurement award, payment of medical bills and a lifetime medical award.
A workers’ comp commissioner denied the claim, finding Moorefield’s injuries didn’t arise out of his employment.
Moorefield appealed that ruling to the entire workers’ comp commission, which found he didn’t produce evidence that the suspects were aware of the amount of cash he typically carried or that he had any cash in his possession at the time of the assault.
The commission found Moorefield was “exposed to a risk that any member of the general public could have been exposed to in that particular [location].” It said his job of collecting payments and disconnecting cable service didn’t expose him to a greater risk of assault.
Moorefield took the case to the Court of Appeals of Virginia.
The appeals court noted that previously, Virginia courts had found that “to be entitled to an award arising from an assault, a claimant must establish that the assault was directed against him as an employee or because of his employment.”
Since the workers’ comp commission found that not to be the case, the appeals court affirmed the ruling: Moorefield would not receive workers’ comp benefits for his injuries.
What do you think about the court’s ruling? Does carrying a substantial amount of cash for a job put an employee at greater risk of assault? Let us know what you think in the comments. Also see our poll on our homepage.
A side note on workplace assaults: Oddly enough, if you break your wrist while punching a customer in Australia, you can get workers’ comp, as a recent case proved.
(Moorefield vs. Boxco, Inc., Court of Appeals of VA, No. 0559-11-3, 8/30/2011)