Visitor Question

Coverage for employee on lunch break who stops a shoplifter?

Submitted By: April (Monte Vista, Colorado, USA)

My husband was on his lunch break, sitting in his truck in the parking lot where he works, when he was called to help stop a shoplifter.

He stepped out of the truck and stepped out in front of the guy with his arms out to get the shoplifter to stop, but the guy grabbed him as he ran by, throwing my husband to the ground.

My husband hurt his left shoulder in the incident. The doctor says he will need surgery to fix it, but the place he works for wants to deny it because he was on his lunch break. Is his employer liable for the injury? What can he do to get his medical bills covered? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear April,

Unfortunately, in almost all cases, workers’ compensation does not cover injuries sustained during lunch breaks. The exception would be if your employer asked you to work during your lunch break, and while in the course of your work duties, you were injured.

There may be an exception:

It’s not clear whether the shoplifter was stealing from your employer, or if the shoplifter had stolen the merchandise from another vendor. If the shoplifter was stealing merchandise from your employer, and your employer or one of his authorized employees, called out to you to stop the shoplifter, it might be argued your employer asked you to work during your lunch break. The work being stopping the shoplifter.

In the alternative, if the shoplifter was stealing from another vendor, and one of that vendor’s employees was the one who asked you to intercede, then you might be able to convince the vendor to pay for your injuries. This is because the vendor, or the employee who asked you to help stop the shoplifter, was actually asking you to “work” for him or her. As a result, you were injured while working for that vendor.

You could also sue the shoplifter personally to cover your medical bills, but it’s doubtful he will have any assets worth pursuing.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: February 21, 2014

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