Laborer's dual purpose at time of accident justifies benefit award
Case name: Irwin v. Renaissance Man, 23 MIWCLR 86 (Mich. W.C.A.C. 2009).
Ruling: The Workers' Compensation Appeals Commission affirmed the magistrate's decision awarding benefits to a laborer who was injured on his way to work while towing a piece of the employer's equipment that he had taken home for the weekend to repair.
What it means: A laborer's vehicular accident while traveling to work and towing a piece of the employer's equipment may be compensable under the dual purpose doctrine, where the laborer had taken the equipment home to repair it and the equipment caused the laborer's injury.
Summary: The commission found a laborer's accident fell within the exception to the rule that injuries which occur while traveling to and from work are not compensable. The commission determined the laborer was engaged in a dual purpose at the time of injury, he was exposed to excessive risk, and there was an employer benefit. The commission explained that the employment connection is supplied not by the employer's request but by the fact that the equipment the laborer was towing is what injured him. The commission pointed to a Michigan court decision to support its finding. In that case, the court denied benefits to a nurse who was injured on her way to an assignment. The court explained that "a different case would be presented if [nurse] was transporting a client or running an errand for a client." The commission likewise concluded that the laborer was transporting the property of his employer -- a traveling circumstance akin to the "client" in the case -- and therefore, his injury was compensable. As a result, the commission found that the laborer's journey had a dual purpose and his injury was therefore compensable.
June 22, 2009
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