That's What She Said

Re-Acting Koi

Additional (Hypothetical) Litigation Value: $225,000 to Michael Scott for workers’ compensation benefits and medical expenses.

Neck deep in an August hot enough to boil cement, and we’re dealt yet another repeat. In fact, I extensively covered this episode last October (see Acting Koi), and I’m unsure what else can be said of Michael Scott’s unrelenting tomfoolery. So, let’s modify the script …

Let’s assume that, instead of haphazardly falling into the koi pond,Koi Jim Halpert — the quintessential prankster — had playfully nudged Michael into the drink. Let’s further assume that Jim’s horseplay caused Michael to hurt himself (I’m thinking a well-deserved cracked skull). Would Michael’s head injury be covered by workers’ compensation? Likely, yes. Would Michael be able to then sue Jim for causing his injury? Likely, no.

For one, as an outside salesman, Michael’s job duties often require him to personally visit customers’ offices. As a general rule, an employee’s injuries sustained within the course and scope of his employment are compensable. For that reason, Michael’s injury — albeit caused by Jim’s horseplay and outside the confines of the Scranton branch — would normally be covered by workers’ compensation.

However, absent very few exceptions, Michael could not turn around and sue Jim for causing his injury. Why? That’s because the law in most states — the exclusive remedy doctrine — prevents co-workers from suing one another for personal injuries that occur within the course and scope of their respective employments. This is particularly true when horseplay is an accepted part of the workplace environment. Years of observation show us that Sabre (formerly Dundler Mifflin) has long tolerated workplace frivolity, practical jokes, and miscellaneous buffoonery. That’s not to say Jim would necessarily get off scot-free had he been grossly negligent or actually intended to hurt Michael. In that case, most states will not apply the exclusive remedy doctrine and will allow an injured employee to sue the fellow worker who hurt him.

Inasmuch as Michael is certain to resign or get the boot in the coming year, this academic exercise will soon become — much like Ke$ha — an annoying non-issue.