They say a dog is a man’s best friend, but that isn’t always the case. Every so often we here about a strange workers’ compensation case that involves our furry friends, so we decided to share some of the stories that have grabbed national headlines over the years.
Home-Based Worker Trips over Dog
An odd workers’ compensation case arose in Oregon in 2011. According to case details, Mary S. Sandberg filed for workers’ comp after the home-based worker tripped over her dog while collecting work supplies.
Sandberg, who was employed by JC Penney, was required to have an office in her car because she did a lot of traveling to meet with customers. On the morning in question, Sandberg went out to her vehicle to grab some fabric from her car. Upon re-entering her house, she tripped over her dog and fractured her wrist.
The Oregon Worker’s Compensation Board originally denied Sandberg’s claim “because the risk arose from her home environment, which was outside of the employer’s control”. However, an appeals court sided with Sandberg, saying that because she worked from home as part of her employment, both Sandberg’s garage and home were part of her work environment. In a statement, the appeals court provided an example to further demonstrate the reversal.
“If the claimant tripped over a dog and injured herself while meeting with a customer in the customer’s home, her injury would arise out of her employment. The same is true here because claimant was where she was, doing what she was, because of the requirements of her employment.”
Loose Dog Causes Injury
This workers’ compensation story comes out of Tennessee. In September 2008, David Kirby was doing HVAC work for the Memphis Jewish Nursing Home. He hurt his shoulder while attempting to stop himself from falling down a flight of stairs, and underwent surgery to repair tendon and cartilage damage in 2009.
A few months later Mr. Kirby returned from work to find one of his dogs running loose. He grabbed the loose dog by the collar, but re-injured his arm when the dog attempted to pull away. Mr. Kirby applied for permanent partial disability based on the original injury and the aggravation.
The Tennessee Chancery Court sided with Mr. Kirby, saying that the second injury was “a natural consequence of the original injury”, and he did not act negligently by restraining his dog. The medical instructions of Mr. Kirby’s doctor were very influential in the court’s decision, as the doctor had recommended that Mr. Kirby “push past his limits” while recovering from surgery. The doctor also stated that Mr. Kirby could continue to walk his dogs during his rehabilitation. An appeal by the nursing home was rejected, and Mr. Kirby received 25% PPD benefits.
Waitress Bitten by Dog
A waitress who tried to do a good deed suffered a severe facial injury after she was bitten by a dog when she bent down to offer it a bowl of water.
Amy Calandrella was working at an outdoor café over Labor Day weekend in 2011 when she noticed that a customer’s dog appeared to be thirsty. What she didn’t realize was that the black mastiff was apparently agitated by two nearby dogs. When Calandrella brought out a bowl of water, the dog’s handled told the waitress to set it down in front of the mastiff, which was lying down at the time.
As she bent down, the dog jumped up and bit Calandrella in the face. She was hospitalized and received 300 stitches to close a wound on her lip.
Calandrella applied for workers’ compensation, but because the incident happened in Florida she could only received benefits stemming from lost wages, medical bills, and impairment benefits. Dog bites usually fall under different workers’ compensation rules, and pain and suffering payments are often collected through homeowners insurance. It is unclear what exact benefits Calandrella received as a result of the incident.
If you’ve suffered a work injury because of a dog or another animal, consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to get the benefits you deserve.