LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed a decision by the state Workers’ Compensation Commission that denied workers’ compensation to a former Pine Bluff Housing Authority employee who was beaten with a baseball bat while on the job.
Leroy Dorn Jr. was at work on May 5, 2015, when a coworker, Bruce Spicer, beat him in the head, face, body and shoulder with a baseball bat. A Pine Bluff police officer intervened and arrested Spicer on suspicion of battery, and both men were fired several days later.
Dorn suffered skull fractures and bruises and lost a tooth in the beating. He submitted a claim for medical expenses and temporary total-disability benefits, and the Housing Authority contested the claim.
An administrative law judge found that Dorn was entitled to payment of medical expenses and temporary total-disability benefits between May 6, 2015, and July 29, 2015. Both sides appealed, with Dorn arguing he was entitled to benefits beyond July 29, 2015, and the Housing Authority contending he was not entitled to any compensation.
The Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed the administrative law judge’s decision, finding that Dorn was an “active participant” in the altercation in which he received the injuries and was not performing work-related duties at the time. Dorn appealed that decision.
In its opinion Wednesday reversing the commission’s decision, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals said the evidence shows Spicer attacked Dorn and that “reasonable minds could not have found” that Dorn was an active participant in the attack.
The appeals court also said Dorn was at work for a required 8 a.m. meeting to resolve a continuing conflict with Spicer and, therefore, he was well within the space and time boundaries of his employment when he was attacked.
The court noted that although the men’s supervisors knew the men would be arriving for an 8 a.m. meeting, no supervisors had yet arrived for work when the assault took place,”thus creating a possibly dangerous situation without anyone present to protect Dorn when he and Spicer arrived to clock in.”
The appeals court sent the case back to the commission for a determination of the extent of temporary total-disability benefits Dorn should receive.