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Montgomery & Bucks County Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dog Bite on Break Leads to Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Can you receive workers’ compensation benefits if you were injured while on a break?

In Pennsylvania, an employee may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if he or she was injured during the course and scope of his or her employment.  While during the course and scope of employment is a phrase that implies that the person must be injured while working, this is not the case.  This phrase has come to encompass a variety of situations as evidenced by a recent Pennsylvania case.

Sean Sovens worked full time for a manufacturing company and part time as a cook at the 1912 Hoover House Restaurant.  In the spring of 2010, while working his one night a week at the restaurant, he went out for a smoke break.  At the same time, his co-worker’s father stopped by, bringing with him the co-worker’s dog.  Sovens pet the dog and the dog attacked him, biting him on the face and causing lacerations.  This incident resulted in Sovens missing 6 days of work.  

Sovens filed a workers’ compensation claim in April of the same year and the restaurant argued that he should be denied benefits because the dog bite did not occur within the course and scope of his employment.  The judge did not agree with the restaurant and instead awarded Sovens’ benefits, assessing his salary to be over $900 a week, which included the wages from his full time job.  

The restaurant appealed the award of benefits and the salary assessment.  While the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board found that the salary was calculated incorrectly, they also found that Sovens was entitled to benefits nonetheless.  The decision was appealed further and subsequently upheld by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. This high court found that breaks for leisure that do not interfere with work are considered to be within the course and scope of employment.  They also found that the petting of the dog in Sovens case did not cause him to fall outside of the course or scope.  In addition, the court held that the fact that he was injured while smoking in an area provided by the restaurant was further evidence that the incident occurred while he was on the job.

The attorneys at Louis P. Lombardi II & Associates are experienced in handling all types of workers’ compensation claims.  We service the areas of Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks County, Pennsylvania and can be reached at (610)239-7600. Contact us for a consultation today.


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