Is a fight among co-workers compensable? ICAO says yes – under certain condition

The Industrial Claim Appeals Office (ICAO) held that a fight among co-workers is compensable if it arises out of a work-related dispute.

Here, claimant worked for employer as a truck driver. Claimant went to employer’s loading facility to retrieve another truck trailer after his broke. Instead of selecting an empty trailer and waiting in line for it to be loaded, claimant decided to take a trailer that had already been loaded. Another truck driver took exception with the claimant’s choice of a preloaded trailer and angrily confronted the claimant. The two exchanged “a series of four letter words,” and the claimant turned away. This prompted the aggressor to call claimant another degrading name. Claimant turned and pushed the aggressor, who in turn punched claimant in the face, thereby injuring him. The ALJ held that the injuries sustained from the punch were compensable because the fight arose out of a work-related dispute.

On appeal, respondents argued that the incident was actually two distinct fights: the first was over the trailer, while the second was after claimant turned away and was called a name. Because the second fight was prompted by a personal insult, respondents argued it was not a work-related fight, but a personal dispute.

ICAO disagreed, and affirmed the ALJ’s holding. ICAO analogized the work-related fight to other cases where co-workers fighting one another over paychecks. The three-second deviation from the fight was not enough to qualify the fight as a “personal dispute.” Therefore, the claim was compensable. Ostberg v. Mr. Bult’s, Inc., W.C. No. 5-012-857-01 (ICAO July 14, 2017).

Would you like to know more? Contact Eric J. Pollart at or 303.414.0782.


From the August 2017 Pollart Miller Newsletter