Leap Day Can be Dangerous


One of Tennessee’s most talented actresses was Dinah Shore. Born in Winchester, Tennessee, in 1916 and a Vanderbilt graduate, she went on to fame as a singer and radio, TV and film actress. She was also a huge supporter of the LPGA and was named an honorary member of the LPGA Hall of Fame. 


She has something in common with a well-known attorney in my district: They were both born on February 29. I once talked to that attorney when he was in the Kingsport office for mediation and asked him if he observed his 16th birthday yet. He replied that he was now 17 years old and proud of it. This year, he turns 20.

Why do we have leap years? Well, it seems there is a difference of almost six hours between a tropical year (the time it takes for the Earth to go around the sun) and 365 days. So to make up for the additional six hours, an additional day is added every four years. But wait, it’s almost 6 hours not exactly six hours, so every 400 years the Gregorian calendar rids itself of 3 leap days. It does this by dropping the leaps days on century years that are not exactly divisible by 400.

Confused yet? It’s about as fathomable as the well-known attorney being 30 years older than I but having enjoyed many fewer birthdays.

Although a leap year doesn’t happen that often, workplace accidents are common on that day. I examined the most recent leap day in 2016 and determined there were 292 injuries in Tennessee that day. There were only 106 injuries on February 28 and 351 on March 1 that year. Some of this difference could be that February 28 was a Sunday, and the 29th a Monday, when more people were working. There were 375 injuries on February 29, 2012, while there were 323 on February 28 and 352 on March 1, all of which were weekdays. So it seems that although we don’t have February 29 but once every four years (most of the time), plenty of work injuries happen on that day.

One example is Permenter v. Briggs & Stratton Corp. Mr. Permenter alleged a cubital and carpal tunnel injury on February 29, 2008, due to lifting at work. It was a complex case, but the trial court found he didn’t prove he suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome. Rather, he suffered cubital tunnel problems. The Court capped his impairment rating at 1.5 because Briggs and Stratton terminated him for poor attendance.

Each party offered some disagreement with the trial court’s conclusions, but the Panel affirmed the trial judge. The Panel broke down each issue and deferred to the trial court’s conclusions.

As I was writing this, I came to realize something: Leap year makes us get paid one day later than normal. Boooo!

Leap year

Fun fact: British and Irish tradition holds that women may propose to men only during leap years.

By Judge Brian Addington

Courtesy of The Tennessee Court of Workers' Compensation Claims


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