Club Dancer Shot While Dancing Gets No Benefits Rules the Court

Posted on October 29, 2012

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An exotic dancer who was accidentally shot while dancing at a nightclub is not entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits according to a ruling released last week by the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

LeAndra Lewis, who was 19 years old when she got unintentionally shot, was a regular exotic dancer at Club Nikki’s in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, she also worked for several other nightclubs in both North and South Carolina, which is a common practice among the exotic club dancers. Among these other clubs where she also danced was the Boom Boom Room Studio 54 in Columbia, South Carolina, despite the fact that she never filled out an employment application nor signed a contract with the club’s parent company, L.B. Dynasty Inc. In 2008, according to court records, Lewis was doing a dance number at  Boom Boom Room’s stage when a fight broke out that culminated in some exchange of gun fire. A stray bullet hit Lewis in the abdomen which necessitated the removal of one her kidneys as well as to other injuries to her uterus which threatened her ability to bear children in the future. Further, in her testimony, Lewis claimed that the scarring from her gunshot wound has rendered her no longer employable as an exotic dancer.

Lewis filed for workers’ compensation, with the South Carolina Uninsured Employers’ Fund shouldering the cost of the services of a personal injury attorney to defend the case as the club lacked insurance. The worker’s compensation commission and appeals board denied her claim since she was not an employee of he club here the shooting incident happened. Lewis’ through her personal injury lawyer elevated the case to the South Carolina Court of Appeals which likewise ruled against her claim.

In the ruling which Chief Judge John Few wrote on behalf of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, he said, “She showed up unannounced, paid the club for the right to dance and receive tips from its customers, and kept almost all the money she received without paying any employment taxes. This arrangement left her free to walk out of the club at a moment’s notice without any employment-related consequences other than to lose income. We agree with the workers’ compensation commission’s finding that Lewis is not an employee. Thus, the commission correctly concluded it had no jurisdiction to award benefits.”

Judge Paul Short Jr. did not agree with his colleagues and in his dissenting opinion, he wrote, “Thus, under the totality of the circumstances, I find the club exercised the sufficient amount of control over Lewis in the performance of her work to establish an employment relationship, and the appellate panel erred in finding Lewis was an independent contractor.”

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