Fortney v. Airtran Airways, Inc., No. 2008-CA-001223-WC (Ky. 06/17/10).
Ruling: The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that a pilot killed in a plane crash while riding as a passenger on another airline at a free or reduced cost was in the course of his employment.
What it means: An airline employee injured while traveling to or from work on a free or reduced cost flight may be acting within the course of employment.
Summary: A pilot was killed in a plane crash. The pilot was riding the plane as a passenger and was on his way to Atlanta, where he would go to his assigned airplane. The pilot chose to live in Kentucky to be close to family. He flew on another airline to travel to Atlanta on a free or reduced travel arrangement between the airlines. The airline argued that the pilot's death was not work-related because he was commuting to work. The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the pilot's death was work-related.
Kentucky law requires an employee's injury to arise out of the course of employment to be compensable. The going and coming rule stated that an injury occurring while commuting between a worker's home and workplace was noncompensable absent special circumstances. An exception to this rule is if the travel is "part of the service for which the worker is employed or otherwise benefits the employer." The court considers whether the worker is paid for the travel expense and the travel time.
In this case, the airline did not pay the pilot for travel time, but he did receive free or reduced fare flights. The court stated that this arrangement induced the pilot to accept the employment and benefitted the airline. The court also stated that the arrangement brought the pilot's air travel between home and work within the course of his employment. The court found that the pilot's death was work-related because he was taking such a trip at the time.
Two justices dissented and stated that they did not believe the travel arrangement given to airline employees provided any substantial benefit or service to the employer.
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September 2, 2010
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