It almost feels like the second in a series, what with this article’s title being so similar to the last one posted in this blog. In that article, we asked, “We Don’t Pay for Viruses, Do We?” (Short answer: Now we do). Today, however, we discuss a completely unrelated topic. Wherein a virus can represent a contagious disease, dumbassery, while just as potentially injurious or lethal, is not contagious. It just seems that way.
For the uninitiated, “dumbassery” is defined by The Cluttered Desk Sort-of English Dictionary as:
Verb – INFORMAL NORTH AMERICAN
Used to describe an action, state, or occurrence related to the act of being a dumbass; performing a stupid or brainless act.
The reality is that workers’ compensation pays for all sorts of dumbassery. Dumbassery is our bread and butter. And dumbassery is not always the sole providence of the person injured on the job. It can be the actions of a supervisor who ordered a safety guard removed to increase production, or the co-worker who thought giving “mild electric shocks” was a great practical joke.
But at a foundational level, we can find some element of dumbassery behind many (but certainly not all) of the claims we manage.
Now, in the case that prompted this discussion, we discuss a man who claims that his obligation to entertain a customer involved blowing his fingers off with fireworks.
Liz Carey reported on this site Monday about a Nebraska truck driver whose “claim that the fireworks explosion responsible for nearly destroying his hand” was “blown out of court.”
He had claimed he was entertaining a manager when he lit a fireworks device, and therefore the injury was within the course and scope of his employment. An independent contractor for a moving company, he had been sent to a customer’s warehouse to pick up a load. He engaged the manager, whom he knew to be a fellow fireworks enthusiast, and said, “Hey, want to see me do something that is completely brainless?”
Ok, he didn’t say that, but he might as well have. He pulled out from his cab what was described as a small artillery shell and showed it to the manager. The manager wisely determined that the wick was too short and declined to participate in the act of dumbassery. Our subject du jour proceeded to prove that the manager’s assessment was correct by lighting the device, which immediately exploded while he still held it. It caused “burns to both hands, his stomach and his lower legs, along with severe, permanent hearing loss. As a result of the burns, several fingers had to be amputated.”
Carey reports that when a fund-raising campaign failed to raise enough money to cover his medical expenses (apparently GoFundMe doesn’t pay for dumbassery) he filed a workers’ compensation claim.
Court records show the man called himself a “dumbass” for lighting the device. We should note the court did not overturn that assessment. They did, however, torpedo the rest of his claim. He had argued that he was entitled to workers’ compensation because “it was part of rapport-building with the warehouse manager he worked with.” He told the court, “You want people to like you and get along with you, and you find a common ground with another individual and boys being boys.” Boys being boys without fingers, that is.
After all, nothing says “we’re in this together” like blowing off your extremities.
The man also claimed that as the “owner of his own moving company, he was responsible for deciding what his job duties were – including setting off fireworks.” Sort of a “it’s my party, and I’ll fry if I want to” defense. (Go ahead, try to get that song out of your head now).
The Appeals Court did not buy it, saying “Lighting a firework at a warehouse where he was scheduled to pick up a trailer load … was not within the scope of [his] job.” It was a rare win for the workers’ comp industry. This was one incident of dumbassery that it did not have to pay for. Well, except for the legal expenses incurred while fighting it, that is.
So today we learned that lighting explosive devices inside a warehouse is not an effective business building exercise. You would be best to bring a box of doughnuts instead. The calorie count is higher, but the level of dumbassery involved is much, much lower. And unless you suffer from an extremely disturbing eating condition, everyone gets to go home with all of their fingers.