An Employee's Injury During Horseplay at Work Deemed Compensable

                               

Clovis, NM (WorkersCompensation.com) - An employer of the Curry County Adult Detention Center was awarded workers’ compensation benefits by an appeals court in New Mexico. Amanda Motes worked as a booking specialist for about five weeks in 2018 when she sustained an injury while on the job.

Motes’ duties at the detention center involved the classification and the booking of new inmates; recording and receiving paperwork, visitors, and medication; and performing other administrative duties such as filing.  According to the court documents obtained by WorkersCompensation.com on the night that Motes sustained her injuries, she stated that things were slow during her night shift and recalls that that a few hours after her shift began she and her colleague Sergeant Jayson Cloud attempted and engaged in marking one another with markers — something they've done in the past when work was slow. After a while, Cloud stepped into a bathroom that was nearby and when he returned had a can of bug spray and pretended to spray Amanda with it. That is when she began to run away from Cloud and his box of spray and ended up tripping on a staircase as she exited the booking area.

Her fall resulted in a broken right ankle and fibula. In court, both had had testified that this was the first time their horse playing during downtime had involved running. She received medical attention for her injuries and reported the accident to the employer. Fearing she might lose her job and receive no compensation for her injury she then consulted with Cloud. Both of them decided to fabricate the events of the evening that ended in injury, according to the documents.

Sergeant Cloud signed off on the made-up report. When the County made its standard investigation report and reviewed the video from surveillance, officials discovered that the two had falsified the accounts of the night and terminated both workers. Motes had already filed a workers’ compensation claim before being let go. But after seeing the video surveillance, both the detention center and their insurer denied the claim.

Alleging that “horseplay” is not compensable, the Curry County Adult Detention Center and its insurer, New Mexico County Insurance Authority, appealed to the Court of Appeals of New Mexico a decision by a state workers compensation judge. But that court found that the injury suffered by Motes is compensable.

The appeals court, citing similar cases, upheld the judge’s ruling on several points including that the horseplay was brief and took place close to Ms. Motes’ work station, writing: “The record here reveals that horseplay had become an expected part of the environment, it often occurred during downtime, and any deviation was minor, brief, and incomplete.”

Recently, the state Supreme Court denied an appeal from the employer. Efforts to reach the attorneys of the parties involved were unnsucessful by press time. 


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