Case name: Hill v. LDA Leasing, Inc., No. CA09-955 (Ark. Ct. App. 03/31/10).
Ruling: The Arkansas Court of Appeals upheld the Workers' Compensation Commission's finding that a truck driver's shoulder injury did not arise out of and in the course of his employment.
What it means: While Arkansas courts have held that injuries sustained by employees during restroom breaks generally occur in the course of employment, if the employee is not performing employment services at the time of the injury, such as when he deviates from his route to get a snack, the injury may not be compensable.
Summary: While waiting for his trailer of processed chickens to be unloaded at a plant, a truck driver decided to use the restroom. After leaving the restroom, he stopped to get some crackers out of a vending machine located in the plant's snack room. While using the vending machine, his feet slipped and he fell between two tables, striking his elbow and arm. Although he sought medical attention at the plant, the nurse did not document his visit. The employer controverted the driver's workers' compensation claim, contending that because he was not performing employment-related services at the time of his injury, it did not occur in the course of his employment. The Court of Appeals agreed, upholding the denial of the claim.
The court explained that under Arkansas law, injuries sustained by employees during restroom and other breaks are generally compensable even if the employer does not require the break. However, the truck driver's accident did not involve a simple trip to the restroom. By deviating from his normal route back to the loading dock to get a snack, he removed the incident from the course of his employment.
The court highlighted the fact that the driver was supposed to stay within the vicinity of his truck so that once it was unloaded, he could immediately move it. Instead, he was in the break room, where he could not monitor what was happening on the dock, which clearly did not further the employer's interests.
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May 27, 2010
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