State Court Rules Against Injured Tower Tech Who Disobeyed Instructions

Should a tower tech receive workers’ compensation after he disobeyed the supervisor’s instructions, and was injured as a result?  A unanimous ruling issued by the Georgia Supreme Court on March 6 overruled the decision made by a lower appellate court, and confirmed an employee disregarding an employer’s directions and acting dangerously may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The issue at stake was whether or not a Chandler Telecom L.L.C employee would receive workers’ compensation after he disobeyed the supervisor’s instructions, and was injured as a result. The court decided the employee acted with the knowledge he was violating orders, and could be injured as a result.  

According to Business Insurance, a cell phone tower technician suffered injuries to his ankle, leg, and hip after a fall in November 2012. The crew members were instructed to climb down the tower at the end of their shifts, instead of using a controlled descent. The report states, the employee “attempted a controlled descent despite the repeated protests of the crew’s lead tower hand who was with him.”  

The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation concluded the worker would not receive compensation benefits after acting in defiance to his supervisor’s instructions. A Georgia Superior Court agreed with the department’s decision, but was reversed by the Georgia Court of Appeals because the employee did not engage in actions of a “quasi criminal nature involving the intentional doing of something either with the knowledge that it is likely to result in serious injury, or with a wanton and reckless disregard of its probable consequences.”

In its decision, the high court stated, “the intentional violation of rules cannot ever constitute willful misconduct when the violation entails knowingly doing a hazardous act in which the danger is obvious.” Furthermore, “the finder of fact must determine whether such an intentional act was done either with the knowledge that it was likely to result in serious injury, or with the wanton and reckless disregard of its probable consequences.” Since the technician knew there could be harmful consequences, and still acted against his supervisor’s orders, the court decided the compensation board was right to withhold benefits.

March 10, 2017   

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