Eckis v. Sea World Corp.
134 Cal.Rptr. 183 (Cal.Ct.App.1976)

Facts:

  • Anne Eckis was a 22-year-old secretary at Sea World.
  • She agreed to ride Shamu, the killer whale, in a bikini for some publicity pictures.
  • Shamu got a little upset and bit Eckis on her legs and hips and held her in the tank.
    • She suffered 18 to 20 wounds which required from 100 to 200 stitches and left permanent scars. She was hospitalized five days and out of work several weeks. She also suffered some phychological disturbance.
  • Sea World paid all her medical expenses and continued to pay her salary as usual during this period. She then filed suit seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

History:
The trial jury awarded her $75,000 in compensatory damages.

  • Defendants appealed.

Issue:
Whether she was acting within the scope of her employment.

Holding:
Yes. Case reversed.

Reasoning:

  • “When an employee’s injuries are compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act, the right of the employee to recover the benefits provided by the Act is his exclusive remedy against the employer.”
  • Eckis unsuccessfully argued that because she was a secretary, riding Shamu was unrelated to her duties and her case didn’t fall under the Compensation Act:

Rule: “Where, as here, an employee is injured on the employer’s premises during regular working hours, when the injury occurs while the employee is engaged in an activity which the employer has requested her to undertake, and when the injury-causing activity is of service to the employer and benefits the employer’s business, the conditions imposing liability for compensation under Labor Code section 3600 are met as a matter of law, and it is immaterial that the activity causing the injury was not related to the employee’s normal duties or that the circumstances surrounding the injury were unusual or unique.”