Man Gets Workers’ Comp for Injury Sustained When Punching Customer

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My understanding is that in the field of workers' compensation law, one must frequently determine whether an injury arose "in the course of employment." This case presented the question whether that could be true of a broken wrist suffered when punching a customer in the face, and according to a magistrate in Melbourne, Australia, the answer is yes.

Matthew Styles was the manager of a Red Rooster restaurant in Melbourne until the fateful night in 2008 when three workers failed to show up, resulting in long waits for customers. One of those customers got belligerent – alcohol was reportedly involved – and asked whether his order was going to be ready sometime "today." Mr. Styles, probably under a lot of stress, said no, it would be "tomorrow." Insults were then exchanged, and according to the report, "a struggle then ensued with a flurry of arms and both being seen to grab each other."

Styles was fired, and Red Rooster then denied his workers' comp claim. It contended he had violated its employee-behavior standards, which according to the company include some sort of rule against fighting customers. Many courts would hold that even an injury sustained while on the job may not arise "in the course of employment" if the worker was doing something outside the scope of his normal duties, and that would seem to have been the case here. But, apparently because he found the customer had been the primary aggressor in the fight, the magistrate ruled otherwise, entitling Styles to thousands in workers' comp payments.

It wasn't entirely clear who won the fight, but Styles was said to have "broke[n] his wrist after repeatedly thumping [the] customer," so I'm guessing it was him.