The Commission Held That Claimant’s Injuries Sustained In Altercation With Coworker Were Compensable

The Illinois Industrial Commission held that a fight between claimant and a coworker was compensable as it was a result of culmination of work-related friction over a period of time. Claimant was not the aggressor, even though he made a crude statement to the coworker just prior to being struck, for the coworker approached claimant after management told him to leave claimant alone. (Dana Jackson v. Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club, (Ill.Ind.Com), Nos. 97 WC 57292, 01 IIC 0056, Jan. 24, 2001.)

Claimant, a stocker, suffered injuries in an altercation with a coworker. Claimant testified that prior to the altercation, he and the coworker did not get along. Claimant attributed this to the way the coworker involved himself in matters that did not concern him and would try to tell claimant and other employees what to do at work. Claimant stated that on the morning of the incident, the coworker approached claimant while he was stocking his own aisle. The coworker commented that “they would get along.” The conversation deteriorated to the point of claimant making a crude comment while continuing to stock the shelves. The coworker then struck claimant and a scuffle ensued.

The coworker testified that he had approached claimant with the intent of resolving their differences so that they could work together. The coworker admitted striking claimant after claimant made a crude comment that made reference to the coworker’s wife.

The arbitrator awarded benefits, finding that the fight was the culmination of work-related friction over a period of time. Although the two men did not get along, the only source of their relationship was their mutual employment. The arbitrator explained that the coworker’s motivation in approaching claimant before the altercation was to resolve their differences so they would be able to work together. This was not a risk shared by the world, at large, but rather, was peculiar to the employment. Further, the arbitrator found claimant was not the aggressor, for the coworker approached claimant after management told him to leave claimant alone.

Upon review, the Commission affirmed and adopted the decision of the arbitrator.

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Donald W. Fohrman & Associates, Ltd.