Employee Injured During Fight May Not Qualify for Benefits


Pursuant to State v. Purmont, 143 Ga. App. 269, 238 S.E.2d 268 (1977), if an employee is injured in an attack by another employee, the employee must not have been the aggressor in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. When asserting an aggressor defense under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-17(a), it is the employer that bears the burden of proving that the injury an employee sustains during an altercation was the result of the employee’s attempt to injure another.

The employer may present details of the events leading up to the altercation. In a recent case before the Appellate Division, details pertaining to an employee’s behavior helped provide an indication as to whether the injured employee was the aggressor.  The court relied on the fact that the injured employee retreated and began to run away when his supervisor gave chase with a knife. It was this behavior that established credible evidence that the employee was not the aggressor.