Officer’s Injury Suffered In Bowling Tournament Not Work-Related

Agaese Moi is a corrections officer with the Hawaii Department of Public Safety. May 2003 was designated “Public Safety Month” in Hawaii, an annual celebration to acknowledge and thank public safety workers. Various recreational and social activities were planned for Public Safety Month, including golf tournaments, a softball tournament, a fishing tournament, and a bowling tournament. The Director of the Department issued an inter-office memorandum to all employees thanking them for their dedication and hard work, and informing them of the upcoming recreational and social activities and encouraging them to participate.

Moi had not planned to participate in the bowling tournament because his scheduled work shift extended past the start time for the tournament. However, on the day of the tournament, Moi changed his mind and requested time off for “personal business” to attend the event. Moi did not have any accrued vacation time, so he requested leave without pay, which his supervisor granted. Moi paid the $15 entry fee. While attempting to bowl at the tournament, Moi slipped and fell, sustaining injuries to his head, shoulder, ribs, and back.

The Hawaii Court of Appeals upheld the denial of Moi’s request for workers’ compensation benefits. The Court found that there was too little evidence that Moi’s injuries “arose out of and were in the course of his employment.” As the Court described, “other than the Department’s general encouragement to attend the bowling activity, there was no evidence that attendance at this event was required. The Department’s involvement in the bowling tournament was limited to encouraging participation in the activity, granting leave or vacation requests to attend the event, and allowing employees to use office telephones and some work time to organize, coordinate, and publicize the event. The Department did not impliedly or expressly require participation, and did not finance the tournament. The Department did not plan or coordinate the event, and employees, not the Department, paid the entry or lane fees. Considering the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that the Department’s sponsorship, if any, of the bowling tournament was insignificant and insufficient to establish the necessary work connection to bring the social or recreational activity within the scope of employment.”

Moi v. State Department of Public Safety, 188 P.3d 753 (Haw.App. 2008).

This article appears in the October 2008 issue