St. Louis Record

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Appeals court affirms Labor and Industrial Relations Commission denial of workers' comp benefits

By Sam Knef | Jul 11, 2017

SPRINGFIELD — The Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District has affirmed a finding of the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, which denied workers' compensation benefits to a man who intentionally lit a can of glue held by a co-worker, which dropped to the ground and exploded. 

According to a ruling filed June 29, Bryan Keith Hedrick Jr. and his co-worker, Steve Milazzo, were severely burned in the incident, which took place July 28, 2011, at Big O Tires in Camdenton.

"Because Claimant’s intentional ignition of the glue was not an 'accident,' as that term is defined ... we affirm the decision of the Commission," the panel of judges held. 

Hedrick, who had been employed fixing tires, performing vehicle alignments and oil changes, and doing general mechanic work, had startled his co-worker holding the glue when he lit it with a lighter. Hedrick had testified in proceedings before an administrative law judge that fixing tires sometimes required using an adhesive, and multiple techniques were used to dry the adhesive, including simply waiting or “light[ing] it on fire [to] make it very sticky and tacky," the ruling states.

He further testified that he had previously engaged in "horseplay" at work, but never "dangerous stuff," the ruling states. Hedrick also said that he had no recollection of the day of the incident and that his first memory afterward was waking up in a hospital.

His point on appeal claims the commission was wrong in concluding his injury did not arise out of and in the course of the employment under governing law because he “would not have been equally exposed to the injury in normal non-employment life,” the ruling states.

Appeals Judges Don Burrell, Jeffrey Bates and Mary Sheffield held that Hedrick's action in igniting the can was not an accident.

"[W]e do not need to decide whether Claimant expected or foresaw the specific injuries he suffered," the ruling states. "The issue is whether he expected or foresaw that the event of igniting a can of flammable adhesives held by another person could produce wounds.

"The Commission found that Claimant 'readily admitted that lighting a can of adhesive on fire was unquestionably dangerous,' but Claimant made his 'own voluntary choice to engage in a spontaneous, unprecedented, and potentially deadly act when he lit a can of industrial adhesive on fire.'" 

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Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District