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MINOR INJURED AT WORK ENTITLED TO DOUBLE COMPENSATION

MINOR INJURED AT WORK ENTITLED TO DOUBLE COMPENSATION

 

Denmark v. Industrial Manufacturing Specialists, Inc.

Circuit Court of Morgan County, Alabama (May 4, 2012)

 

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals recently held that a 16-year-old part-time employee injured while performing a job that minors are precluded from performing under Alabama Law was entitled to double compensation for his work-related injury.

 

The plaintiff, Lucas Denmark, was a 16-year-old part-time employee of Industrial Manufacturing Specialists (IMS).  Denmark was injured on March 9, 2006.  One of his job duties at IMS was to use a band saw to cut metal-bar stock, or raw metal, which was sometimes up to 20 ft. long, into smaller segments.  On the date of the accident, Denmark and another IMS employee were loading metal-bar stock weighing 1,300 lbs onto a table and were to place it onto a conveyor roller so that it could be cut by the band saw.  Denmark was crushed under the bar stock, suffering an open fracture to his left ankle.

 

Denmark had surgery to repair his fractured left ankle.  Four months after the accident, Denmark’s  physician determined that Denmark’s ankle injury had reached maximum medical improvement and he allowed Denmark to return to full-duty work with no restrictions.  The physician testified that he did not believe that Denmark had sustained a permanent physical impairment as a result of his left-ankle injury.

 

The trial court determined that Denmark suffered a scheduled injury resulting in a 10% permanent loss to his foot.  In its Order, the trial court also determined that IMS had violated Alabama’s Child-Labor Laws  by having Denmark operate a band saw.  However, since Denmark was not operating the band saw at the time of his injury, the trial court did not award double compensation for the injury pursuant to the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.

 

On Appeal, Denmark argued that he was entitled to double compensation for his injury because, at the time of the injury,  he was improperly employed in a job that minors are precluded  from performing under Alabama Law.  Specifically, Ala. Code §25-5-34 states that “if at the time of injury the minor was employed in violation of or contrary to the law regulating the employment or any part thereof, then the compensation shall be two times what it would be if the employment had been legal.”  Alabama’s  Child-Labor Laws prohibit any person under 18 years of age from being employed to operate any  “power-driven metal forming, cutting, straightening, drawing, punching or shearing machines,” which would include a band saw.

 

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals agreed with Denmark’s position that he was entitled to double compensation and the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reversed that portion of the trial court’s judgment.  At the time of his injury, Denmark was maneuvering 1,300 lb bar stock so that the bar stock could be cut with the band saw.  It was undisputed that Denmark’s job duties included operating the band saw.  Thus, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals held that Denmark was nonetheless  working at a job that minors are prohibited from performing when the accident occurred.  Therefore, Denmark was entitled to receive double compensation for his injury.

 

Denmark had also argued on appeal that his scheduled injury to the left foot should have been treated as an injury to the left leg.  At trial, Denmark stated that the pain from his ankle extended “ kinda” up his leg. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals felt that the evidence presented to the trial court did not warrant a finding that Denmark suffered a scheduled injury to the leg as opposed to the ankle.  The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals affirmed that part of the trial court’s judgment.

 

I hope you have found the above summary helpful and informative. If you have any questions or would like copies of the cases referenced in this letter, please feel free to give me a call.

 

For a copy of this and other publications regarding recently released cases of interest in the State of Alabama, please feel free to visit our website at www.robertsasscociates.net/publications. If you would like to receive these updates via email, please send an email to sroberts@robertsassociates.net.

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