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Seriously Injured Stripper Not Entitled to Workers' Comp Benefits: Court

The split 2-1 ruling in LeAndra Lewis v. L.B. Dynasty Inc. upholds a workers compensation commission finding that she was a contractor and not an employee when she was shot in 2008 while dancing at the Boom Boom Room in Columbia, South Carolina.

September 6, 2012
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A stripper seriously injured by a stray bullet fired during an altercation in the club where she was working is not entitled to workers' compensation benefits because she was not an employee, South Carolina's Court of Appeals ruled September 5.

The split 2-1 ruling in LeAndra Lewis v. L.B. Dynasty Inc. upholds a workers' compensation commission finding that she was a contractor and not an employee when she was shot in 2008 while dancing at the Boom Boom Room in Columbia, South Carolina.

She suffered serious intestinal, liver, pancreas, kidney and uterus injuries, and doctors removed a kidney, the opinion states. She also testified that the shooting left her unemployable as an exotic dancer.

Court records show that the Boom Boom Room did not have insurance, so the South Carolina Uninsured Employers' Fund defended the case.

Among other arguments, Lewis claimed she was an employee when shot because the club controlled her activities, including telling her when to dance, what music to dance to and requiring her to "strive to get V.I.P. dances."

But the appeals court rejected the arguments presented by her counsel as "creative presentation."

"The extent to which an exotic dancer in the Boom Boom Room decides the manner in which she performs her dance to satisfy the club's customers, according to the record in this case, is not subject to any limitation or control by the club," the majority said.

But Justice Paul E. Short dissented, arguing the "totality of the circumstances" showed Lewis was an employee.

"I find the club exercised the sufficient amount of control over Lewis in the performance of her work to establish an employment relationship," he wrote.

Roberto Ceniceros writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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