Injury suffered during off-duty athletic activity compensable where activity deemed work-related

Injury suffered while coaching employee volleyball team deemed compensable where such activity was undertaken in furtherance of directive to improve staff morale. 

Matter of Nichols v. Hale Cr. ASACTC, 2012 NY Slip Op 00078 (App. Div., 3rd Dept. 1/5/2012)

Claimant suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon while coaching an employee volleyball team. The carrier contested coverage, contending that the injury did not occur in the course of the claimant’s employment. The Workers’ Compensation Board affirmed an award of benefits and the carrier appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s determination.

Although pursuant to WCL § 10(1) injuries sustained during voluntary off-duty athletic activities that are not part of the employee’s work-related duties are not compensable, the court determined that since the claimant was given specific directions to improve staff morale, he was evaluated on his ability to do so, and his involvement in coaching the volleyball team was in furtherance of that goal, there was substantial evidence supporting the Board’s determination that the employer sponsored the activity such that the claimant’s injury arose in the course of his employment.

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