Thursday, March 8, 2012

Court of Special Appeals Finds No Exception to "Going and Coming" Rule

       Recently in Garrity v. Injured Workers Insurance Fund, et. al, the Court of Special Appeals held that no exceptions to the “going and coming rule” were applicable, and as a result the employee’s resulting injuries were not compensable, where an employee left work without express or implied authorization, and subsequently, was involved in an automobile accident on his return to work. This case gives exceptional insight to the rationale behind the “going and coming rule” and its exceptions.

       Scott Garrity, the (“Appellant”), a part time bailiff at the District Court for Baltimore City, was involved in a serious car accident as he was driving back to the courthouse during the workday. On June 8, 2006, shortly after arriving at work, the Appellant spilled coffee on his shirt and tie. The Appellant then decided to leave the courthouse and return home to change his shirt and tie, without notifying a supervisor. The Appellant was assigned to courtroom five that morning, and explained, that when two bailiffs were assigned to a courtroom five, it was customary that one bailiff would take over the courtroom if the other needed to run an errand. On his return, the Appellant was involved in a head on car accident.

       Ordinarily, an employee that suffers an injury going to or returning from their place of work is not considered to be acting in the course of employment. On appeal, the Appellant acknowledged that he was returning to work, but asserted that the injury is compensable under three (3) exceptions to the “going and comings rule”: (1) the special mission exception; (2) the dual purpose doctrine exception; and (3) the personal comfort exception.

       The special mission exception is generally applicable when an employee is traveling on a special mission or errand at the request of the employer and in furtherance of the employer’s business. The crux of whether or not the special mission exception applies depends on whether the employee had express or implied authority to undertake the special errand. Whether a case falls in the rule depends on the terms of the agreement by which the claimant is employed, either in an express form, or an implication from the nature or character of the work. 

       Here, the Appellant’s assertions of authority to go on the errand where two-fold 1) he alleged that the “Policy on Appropriate Attire and Appearance” mandated that he change his stained shirt and tie and 2) that he had implied authority to leave given the liberal policy concerning bailiffs’ running errands. Not persuaded, the Court found that the appellant did not have express or implied authority to leave the courthouse, and, therefore, the appellant could not be on a special mission on behalf of his employer.

       The dual-purpose doctrine exception applies if the injury occurred during a trip that serves both a business and a personal purpose. Here, the Appellant contended that his injury was compensable under the dual-purpose doctrine because he was advancing the judiciary’s interest by asserting that he had his radio with him so that he could monitor communication and return if needed. The Court determined that the Appellant took the radio on his own initiative, without being advised to, and was not serving a business purpose by merely bringing the radio with him.  In fact, the interests of the courthouse would have been better served by the Appellant by remaining at the courthouse.  Therefore, the dual purpose doctrine was also not applicable. 

       Finally, the personal comfort exception is applicable if the claimant sustained an accidental injury while engaged in some personal comfort activity incidental to employment, for example a coffee break or other paid break intervals as specified in an employment contract. Here, the record did not suggest that the terms of the Appellant’s part-time employment entitled him to a paid break in which he could attend to his personal comforts. Thus, the personal comfort exception also did not make the Appellant’s injury compensable. 

Article Contributed by Andrew Nichols

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