Bearshield v. City of Gregory, 12441

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtMORGAN
Citation278 N.W.2d 166
PartiesVelda BEARSHIELD, Special Administratrix of the Estate of William Bearshield, Deceased, Claimant and Respondent, v. CITY OF GREGORY, Employer and Appellant, and St. Paul Insurance Companies, Insurer and Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 12441,12441
Decision Date19 April 1979

Page 166

278 N.W.2d 166
Velda BEARSHIELD, Special Administratrix of the Estate of
William Bearshield, Deceased, Claimant and
CITY OF GREGORY, Employer and Appellant,
St. Paul Insurance Companies, Insurer and Appellant.
No. 12441.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
Argued Jan. 23, 1979.
Decided April 19, 1979.

Page 167

J. M. Grossenburg of Day & Grossenburg, Winner, for claimant and respondent.

Gary E. Davis of Johnson, Johnson & Eklund, Gregory, for employer and appellant, and insurer and appellant.

MORGAN, Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment of the Circuit Court for the Sixth Judicial Circuit reversing the decision of the Director of the Department of Labor denying death benefits under the worker's compensation statutes on the grounds that decedent's death was not "in the course of" his employment. We affirm the judgment of the circuit court and remand the matter to the Department of Labor (Department) for further proceedings.

William Bearshield (decedent) was a police officer for the City of Gregory for four years. On numerous occasions during those four years, his police duties brought him into contact with Norman Blue Bird, with Blue Bird's two younger brothers and, shortly before his death, he had been on duty in the jail while Blue Bird's mother was serving a portion of a sentence for driving without a license. Blue Bird resented decedent and had threatened and attacked him. Decedent was quite concerned that Blue Bird may attempt to kill him and instructed his wife and daughter on what to do if he should be killed by Blue Bird. Shortly before his death, he had received a mysterious phone call and his car's windshield had been broken. Decedent did not have any contact or dealings with Blue Bird other than those as a police officer in the course of his duties.

On July 23, 1976, decedent commenced a one-week vacation from his employment as a policeman. He and his family spent a portion of that vacation at a pow-wow in Milk's Camp, about thirty miles from Gregory, where they operated a concession stand and he served as an announcer for a softball tournament. The pow-wow ended shortly before midnight on July 25, 1976. Decedent's family returned to Gregory, but he remained at Milk's Camp with his two brothers with the intention of removing the concession stand in the morning. Decedent, his two brothers, and a friend spent the night sleeping in decedent's car parked in a friend's driveway. In the early morning hours, Blue Bird and his mother approached the car and asked if Officer Bearshield was asleep. Decedent's brother said that he was and then Blue Bird's mother opened the car door beside decedent and Blue Bird stabbed him in the heart saying "leave my mom alone." He died of the stab wounds.

In December of 1976, decedent's widow, respondent, filed a notice of death and petition

Page 168

for hearing seeking to claim worker's compensation death benefits for her husband's death. A hearing was held in March 1977, and on June 8, 1977, the Department denied respondent's claim. The Department's denial was based upon its conclusion of law that decedent's death was not "in the course of" his employment. Respondent appealed to circuit court which reversed the Department's ruling and, in a well-reasoned and detailed decision, held that decedent's death was "in the course of" his employment and that respondent was entitled to receive worker's compensation death benefits. The City of Gregory and its insurance carrier, appellants, appeal from the circuit court's judgment.

South Dakota's worker's compensation statutes provide that compensation shall be awarded to the widow and children of an employee whose injury results in death, provided that the injury "aris(es) out of and in the course of the employment." 1 It is not disputed by appellants that the injury arose "out of" the decedent's employment. There is no doubt that there is a causal connection between the injury and the employment and that the injury had its origin in the hazard to which the employment exposed decedent while doing his work. Krier v. Dick's Linoleum Shop, 78 S.D. 116, 98 N.W.2d 486 (1959). The sole issue is whether the injury arose "in the course of" decedent's employment.

In concluding that decedent's death did not arise "in the course of" his employment, the Department's hearing examiner relied upon previous South Dakota cases wherein the phrase "in the course of employment" has been interpreted. This Court has made it clear that the words "in the course of employment" refer to the time, place and circumstances of the injury. This does not limit the application of the statute to the period during which an employee is actually engaged in the work he is hired to perform. An employee is considered to be in the course of his employment if he is doing something that is either naturally or incidentally related to his employment or which he is either expressly or impliedly authorized to do by the contract or nature of the employment. Krier v. Dick's Linoleum Shop, supra; Wilson v. Dakota Light & Power Co., 45 S.D. 175, 186 N.W. 828 (1922); Lang v. Board of Education, Etc., 70 S.D. 343, 17 N.W.2d 695 (1945). Under the above interpretation of "in the course of employment", this Court has allowed recovery in certain cases where a very strict interpretation of the phrase would have prohibited recovery. In Meyer v. Roettele, 64 S.D. 36, 264 N.W. 191 (1935), an employee of Roettele died of botulism which he received from eating...

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22 cases
  • Swedlund v. Foster, 21870.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • January 15, 2003
    ...Court Lawrence County, South Dakota, (1985))) (State Trooper Oren Hindman was killed in line of duty); Bearshield v. City of Gregory, 278 N.W.2d 166 (S.D.1979) (Officer William Bearshield fatally stabbed in heart by stalker); State v. Sitts, 71 S.D. 494, 26 N.W.2d 187 (1947) (Officer Matthe......
  • Stivison v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 96-1411
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • December 31, 1997
    ...a single work-connected incident." Id., 216 Va. at 80, 216 S.E.2d at 54-55. [687 N.E.2d 468] Bearshield v. Gregory (S.D.1979), 278 N.W.2d 166, involved a set of facts somewhat similar to Graybeal, but the target was a police officer. The decedent was murdered while on vacation in revenge fo......
  • Fair v. Nash Finch Co., 24073.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • February 14, 2007
    ...the course of employment" refers to the time, place, and circumstances of the injury. Id. ¶ 11 (quoting Bearshield v. City of Gregory, 278 N.W.2d 166, 168 (S.D.1979)). An employee is acting "in the course of employment" when an employee is "doing something that is either naturally or incide......
  • McNeil v. Superior Siding, Inc., 25106.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • July 29, 2009
    ...factor and will not support a determination that [the claimant] had knowledge of the existence or extent of his injury." Bearshield, 278 N.W.2d at 166. Claimants are not expected to be diagnosticians. Id. Furthermore, the "good cause" determination under the statute must be liberally constr......
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