Injuries sustained by innocent victims/ bystanders of horseplay, within the time and space boundaries of employment, are, absent special circumstances, compensable. Whereas, injuries to an instigator or an active participant in a horseplay situation depends greatly upon the seriousness of the deviation from the general employment duties/ responsibilities per the particular employment environment. The question the Court considers is whether the deviation from employment is "substantial." There is really no hard-lined black letter rule for what constitutes a serious enough deviation from employment to be considered "substantial", and accordingly, warrant a finding of non-compensability due to horseplay. Thus, determinations on this issue are very fact dependent, and are considered based upon their attendant circumstances.
Recommendations for Handling:
Under Tennessee law, Insurers have fifteen (15) days to decide whether or not to deny a claim, evidenced by the filing of a C-23 Notice of Denial of Claim for Compensation with the Tennessee Department of Labor. Within that 15-day timeframe, Insurers need to conduct a detailed factual investigation about the situation, giving rise to a horseplay issue. Sometimes, in perceived horseplay claims, there can also be a relationship with co-workers' assault issue and/or willful failure or refusal to abide by an employer's safety rule defense.
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