Racetrack employee not on job at time of debilitating damage

A track worker who was sleeping in the stable when a fire broke out and severely injured his back was not working at the time of his injury and was not suffering a indemnifiable compensation injury, an Arkansas appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Juan Lopez, who tended to racehorses as part of his work at James Divito Racing Stable in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and slept on the premises because city life was unaffordable, had returned from dinner and fell asleep in a room above the stable before his 6 o’clock shift. When a fire broke out at 5:45 am, he jumped out of a window on the second floor and suffered a fractured vertebra that resulted in a 10-month disability. He then testified that according to records in Juan he could no longer work with horses Lopez v James Divito Racing Stable and Meadowbrook Insurance Group, filed in the Arkansas Court of Appeals, Division II in Little Rock, Arkansas.

After denying his workers’ right to claim that he was not at work at the time – the stable argued that he did not have to live on site – an administrative law judge found that Mr. Lopez “by preponderance of the Evidence that He suffered a recoverable injury for providing employment services at the time of his injury. “

In particular, the (judge) found that Mr Lopez’s employer benefited from his “mere presence on the premises” as Mr Lopez “had to be on the track to run the horses when his number was called and because Lopez was required to walk the horses after a race and during his regular working hours. In view of these employment activities, the (Judge) was convinced that Lopez’s premise living was inherently necessary for the performance of his employment duties. “

The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission overturned the ALJ’s decision, concluding that “Lopez failed to find a job when he was injured” and that he did not have to live on the stable grounds.

The appellate court agreed with the commission, finding that “substantial evidence” supports this decision and that “our case law states that night injury to a non-resident worker cannot be compensated if the worker simply cares for his or her own personal needs.”

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