IWITN #38: Was A United Airlines Worker Brawl With A Passenger A Work-related Injury?

A viral video shows a United Airlines Luggage Check-In Worker engaged in a fist fight with a customer.  The video shows the UA Worker punching the customer.  The video then shows the customer beating up the worker.  Dailymail.com

For the purpose of this post, we will take the video as the totality of the interaction. Thus, we will analyze whether the UA Worker can claim a work injury for the blows that he sustained. Again, the facts, for this hypothetical, are that the UA Worker came up to the customer and struck the customer.  The customer, in turn, then struck the UA Worker.

It is reported that prior to the blows that there was some interaction between the UA Worker and the customer concerning the customer using a wheelchair to transport luggage as opposed to paying for a luggage cart.

Can the UA Worker Claim An Injury With Respect to the Exchange of Blows?

Labor Code Section 3600(a)(7) prohibits recovery under workers’ compensation law in California “[w]here the injury does not arise out of an altercation in which the injured employee is the initial physical aggressor.” This is often referred to as the “Initial Aggressor Rule.” Thus, the fist fight injuries would not be covered as a valid claim. The reason being is that the UA Worker threw the first blow and therefore was the initial aggressor.

Could the UA Worker File a Different Claim?

From the facts of the case, the UA Worker apparently became agitated to the point that he decided to attack the customer. There is the possibility that a psyche claim could be filed.  From the video, it would appear that the UA Worker was unhinged.  A determination on this matter would be deferred to a mental health practitioner.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

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