Property manager's fatal accident during business trip not compensable
Case name: Houck v. Tarragon Management Inc., No. 1D08-0081 (Fla. 1st Dist. Ct. App. 02/24/09).
Ruling: The Florida District Court of Appeal affirmed an order denying death benefits, as the employee was not in the course and scope of employment at the time of her fatal accident.
What it means:
Where an employee arrives one to two days early at her business trip destination in order to spend personal time at the destination, she is not a traveling employee during this early period.
Summary: A property manager suffered fatal injuries when she was struck by a car while attempting to cross a street in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The decedent had flown into the city to train another property manager. The training was scheduled to begin Monday morning and last one week. She arrived on Saturday to spend the day with a friend. However, her friend cancelled, and the trainee met the decedent at the airport, took her to the employer's condominium and drove her to dinner. After dinner, they went window shopping and to a nightclub. The accident occurred at 2 a.m. after they left the nightclub. The appellate court ruled that the decedent was not a traveling employee under Florida law. As the decedent's accident did not occur in the course and scope of her employment, death benefits were not warranted.
The court explained that the decedent's early arrival into Fort Lauderdale was for purely personal reasons. Her presence in Fort Lauderdale at the time of the accident was purely voluntary. The fact she engaged in an impromptu business discussion over dinner did not alter her status. Therefore, she was not a traveling employee entitled to coverage.
The court noted that benefits may still have been available had the decedent been in the course and scope of her employment when the accident occurred. Although she was in the course and scope of her employment while traveling from the airport to her employer's condominium, and possibly while discussing business over dinner, the connection to employment broke once she went window shopping. She did not restore the connection prior to the accident.
April 23, 2009
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