Richardson v. Fiedler Roofing, Inc.

67 N.Y.2d 246 (1986)

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Richardson v. Fiedler Roofing, Inc.

New York Court of Appeals
67 N.Y.2d 246 (1986)

Facts

Norman Richardson worked for Fiedler Roofing, Inc. (Fiedler) (defendant) as a roofer. One day, while Norman and a coworker were on a roof at a jobsite waiting for materials to arrive, they crossed over to the roof of another building and stole copper downspouts to sell for their personal profit. Unfortunately, Norman slipped on the icy roof and fell to his death. Fiedler had often had to reimburse others for downspouts that its workers had stolen. Yet Fiedler had not chosen to discipline or terminate any employee for these crimes. Anna Richardson (plaintiff) filed a claim for workers’ compensation, which an administrative-law judge granted, ruling that Norman’s death originated in the course of and was linked causally to his employment. The workers’-compensation board (defendant) agreed with the judge’s determination, found that Norman’s personal theft activities, which were known to Fiedler, were not a deviation from his work, and granted compensation to Norman’s five children. The board’s ruling was then affirmed by an appellate court, and Fiedler and its insurance company appealed. On appeal, Fiedler argued that no benefits under worker’s compensation should be paid, because Norman’s death occurred while he was engaged in the act of stealing for personal reasons, and his death did not occur because of his employment. Fiedler also argued that the liability section of the workers’-compensation law ought to be interpreted as having the same exception to liability as the disability-benefits section of the law, under which no compensation was due if a claimant suffered harm because of engaging in illegal acts.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Simons, J.)

Dissent (Titone, J.)

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