Horseplay is not altogether uncommon in the workplace and basically consists of boisterous and playful roughhousing. When an injury arises in the workplace as a result of horseplay, the question of compensability comes into play. It is a relatively uniform principle throughout the states that if the injured party was not a participant in the horseplay, but only injured by the horseplay, compensation will not be denied. However, only some states will permit the recovery of workers’ compensation benefits if the injured party instigated the horseplay or participated therein. Many jurisdictions outright deny compensation to instigating employees based on the principle of the employee as the “aggressor.”
When an employee instigates the horseplay, courts look to the degree or extent of the horseplay. Generally, minor acts of horseplay will not operate to deprive the employee-instigator of benefits. In order to determine whether the employee’s actions took him out of the realm of his employment, courts will examine facts concerning how far the employee deviated from his job duties in instigating and participating in the horseplay, whether the employee completely abandoned his work in pursuing the horseplay, and whether horseplay was an accepted or expected part of the employment.
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