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Nevada Supreme Court Threatens Workers’ Compensation Benefitsf

In 2009, 12% of Nevada’s workplace fatalities were caused by workers falling to a lower level. Under Nevada’s workers’ compensation statutes, employers not exempt by statute, are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees for injuries they sustain in the course and scope of their employment. NRS 616C.150(1). Workers ‘ compensation covers medical treatment, compensation for lost work time due to temporary total or permanent disability, awards for permanent or total disability, death benefits to dependents, vocational rehabilitation, and other related expenses.

While workers’ compensation has generally been awarded regardless of fault (employer or employee), the Nevada business community now wonders if a recent decision by the Nevada Supreme Court will open the door for the employee’s fault to be considered as a factor in determining workers’ compensation awards.

Under NRS 616A.020 exclusive remedy doctrine, in exchange for an entitlement to benefits, an employee cannot sue their employer and an employer cannot deny benefits to an employee for work-related injuries, regardless of whose fault caused the injury.

In Fitzgeralds Casino/Hotel and Cannon Cochran Management Services, Inc. versus Gary Mogg, Mogg, a security guard, injured himself when he fell over his chair while trying to put his feet on top of his desk. Fitzgerald’s Casino/Hotel v. Mogg, No. 55818 (11/18/11). Fitzgeralds Casino and Cannon Cochran denied Mogg’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits. An appeals officer reversed the denial and awarded Mogg workers’ compensation benefits.

Fitzgeralds Casino and Cannon Cochran filed an appeal of the appeals officer’s decision with the District Court. The District Court upheld the appeals officer’s decision. Fitzgeralds Casino and Cannon Cochran filed a further appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court raising two primary issues: 1) whether Mogg’s injuries arose out of and in the scope of his employment, and 2) whether Mogg’s conduct was barred by an implied prohibition against such conduct so as to avoid the application of the personal comfort doctrine.

Regarding both issues, the Nevada Supreme Court found that “injuries resulting from employment-related risks, such as a defective chair, are ‘all the obvious kinds of injur[ies] that one thinks of at once as industrial injur[ies],’ however “where an injury is caused by a condition personal to the employee, such as a bad knee, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis or the like, or while engaging in unreasonable personal comfort activities, compensation for such an injury is generally unavailable.” Further, if the chair was not defective, was Mogg, because of his job, at an increased risk for injury, which is compensable, than the general public would be, which is not compensable. Finding no evidence from the appeal’s officer to answer these questions, the Nevada Supreme Court reversed the grant of workers’ compensation to Mogg and remanded the case back to the appeal’s officer for further findings.

The commentary is for educational and commentary purposes only. If you or someone you know have been involved in a worker’s compensation case, and would like to represented by a Nevada attorney, contact our office for a free confidential case review. You will receive a response within hours. Call Toll Free 866-414-0400