Personal Injury Case Study...
This case discusses a workman's comp settlement for an employee who was the victim of assault and battery in his employer's parking lot. We'll discuss relevant legal issues including specific damages, liability, settlement negotiations, and the final case resolution.
Definition of "Assault and Battery": the unlawful threat of imminent harm to a person (assault); and, harmful touching of a person (battery). They can both result in criminal and/or civil liability.
John got a job working as a stock boy at the local big-box grocery store last month. He typically worked the late shift from 7:00 p.m. to 3:00am. After work, John exited from the back of the store near the loading docks into a very dark parking lot and walked about 50 yards to his vehicle. The employees had a designated parking lot that was further from the building than the immediately adjacent parking spots reserved for customers.
On the evening in question, John bragged to his co-workers that he had recently sold three DVD players and had $375 in cash in his back pack. As John clocked out at 3:05am, he had no idea that anyone was following or casing him.
While in the dark parking lot, he was brutally attacked and robbed. Three days later, two of his fellow co-workers were apprehended for the crime when they told other co-workers what they had done. The back-pack and cash were found in their possession.
Clearly, from a criminal perspective, the two co-workers are liable for assault and battery. However, from a civil liability perspective, the employer may bear some responsibility as well.
In the previous year, there had been 12 assaults in the same parking lot after sunlight hours because employees typically took the bank deposits with them at that time. Despite the knowledge that there had been numerous assaults, the employers never took any steps to make the environment safer such as video cameras, better lighting, allowing the employees to park closer or having armed security guards patrol the parking lot.
Premises liability requires owners of property to inspect for hazardous conditions and notify individuals of those hazards or correct them. John had just been hired and had no notice of the previous 12 assaults. It is arguable that his employer was in the position to both notify him and other employees of the assaults but also institute measures to reduce them, and they failed to do so.
While it is arguable that John brought the assault on himself for bragging about having a large sum of cash, and while the employer may never have suspected that these two individuals would violently rob him (i.e. not foreseeable), liability rests more so in creating a dangerous condition for an assault to occur.
John received a broken right arm, bruised ribs, scrapes and bruises and had to get 15 stitches in the back of his head where he had been struck by a bottle.
It was determined that the bottle was found on-site and was a collection of recycling that the employers had not taken to the recycling center for over two months.
Because this occurred while John was at work, it was considered a workers compensation claim. A novel issue was raised in that it was questionable whether a person leaving work is still within the scope of their employment.
Here, because John never made it to his car and was still on employer property, it was considered a worker's comp claim. In addition, John qualified for the Victims Compensation Fund which was available to pay for some medical expenses and counseling for John.
John was injured badly but not permanently. Therefore in the workers compensation arena, he was rated at 10% disabled and offered a workman's comp settlement of $1,900 and full payment of his medical bills which he accepted.
From the Victims Compensation Fund he received $10,000. Though it is against the law for his employer to fire him for submitting a Workers Compensation claim, John chose to quit.
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