Hubbel v. Board of Trustees of the Fire & Police Employees' Retirement System of the City of Baltimore, No. 2836 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 05/27/10).
Ruling: The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that a firefighter who died of a heart attack after running on a treadmill at his home to train for a work-related physical fitness examination was not within the course of his employment.
What it means: Under Maryland law, an employee training for a work-related physical fitness examination at home while off duty must show that he is acting within the course of his employment.
Summary: A 42-year-old firefighter suffered a fatal heart attack after running on a treadmill in his home. He was a member of the Special Rescue Operations Team and was training for a required annual physical fitness test. Team members were on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and were expected to maintain fitness on their own. His widow sought line-of-duty death benefits. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that he was not within the course of his employment when he exercised at his home.
The court stated that Maryland law and a City of Baltimore ordinance have differing requirements, but this case did not meet either law's requirements. Under Maryland law, an injury must have occurred "in the course of employment," which refers to the time and place of an injury and the circumstances under which it occurred. The city ordinance required the injury to arise in the course of "actual performance of duty."
The court noted that the firefighter was off duty and at home while he was exercising and he could have trained virtually anywhere.
The court also said that passing the physical fitness test was not a condition of the firefighter's employment. The court stated that if he failed the test and could not pass it within six months, he would not lose his position as a firefighter, but he would be ineligible to remain on the team.
Additionally, the court stated that the firefighter's death did not arise out of his employment because a medical report stated that he died due to a preexisting condition. The firefighter was overweight, had a family history of heart disease, and had high cholesterol.
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September 9, 2010
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