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May 24

Worker hurt while eating lunch: Should he get bennies?

Check out this worker’s argument for why he should get workers’ comp benefits, and see if you can guess whether or not they were awarded to him.

What happened

Herman Huggins, a bricklayer in New York, left his worksite during his lunch break and bought a sandwich.

He sat down in a municipal bus shelter across the street from the worksite to eat.

While eating, one of the shelter’s panes of glass fell on him, causing various injuries.

Huggins filed for workers’ compensation benefits, saying he sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment.

But New York’s workers’ comp law says, “Lunchtime injuries are generally deemed to occur outside the scope of employment except under limited circumstances where the employer continues to exercise authority over the employees during the lunch break.”

His argument

Huggins presented three arguments for why the injury occurred in the course of his employment:

  1. His employer maintained control over him during his lunch break because if one of the foremen wanted him back on the job they could just yell across the street for him to return.
  2. He said his injury occurred so close to work that it should be compensable.
  3. His third argument involved a theory that vibrations from the worksite caused the shelter’s glass to collapse on him.

Where any of these arguments convincing enough to get him benefits?

The verdict

Huggins’ case went all the way to a New York state appeals court. But in the end he was denied benefits.

The court shot down each of his arguments:

  • Huggins’ first argument was nixed when the court noted that he wasn’t required to carry a beeper, nor was he told where to eat his lunch.
  • The court shot down Huggin’s second argument, saying a purely fortuitous coincidence of time and place is not enough to make an injury compensable.
  • As for his third argument, the court called it “entirely speculative.”

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