Compensation denied for injuries occurring en route to mediation
Feiereisen v. Newpage Corp., et al., No. WCB-09-603 (Maine 10/14/10).
Ruling: The Maine Supreme Judicial Court held that a worker was not entitled to benefits for injuries resulting from a car accident that occurred while traveling to a workers' compensation mediation session.
What it means: In Maine, an injury arising from a car accident while traveling to a workers' compensation mediation session does not arise out of and in the course of employment.
Summary: A worker sustained work-related injuries to his neck, back, and arm. While traveling to a workers' compensation mediation session in connection with these injuries, the worker was involved in a car accident, causing an injury to his shoulder. The worker sought compensation for the injury arising from the car accident. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court denied benefits to the worker, holding that the injury arising from the car accident did not arise out of and in the course of his employment.
The court analyzed the coming and going rule which states that an accident occurring off the employer's premises while an employee is traveling to or from work is not compensable. However, exceptions to the rule exist when a sufficient connection exists between the employee's presence on the highway and his employment. The court noted that several other jurisdictions have agreed that acts undertaken to pursue a claim against an employer does not arise out of and in the course of employment or promote the interests of the employer.
The worker argued that although his travel was taken to pursue an action against his employer, his participation in mediation was mandatory and therefore part of his employment contract. The court disagreed, stating that the worker's attendance at mediation did not benefit the employer more than his attendance at a hearing would benefit the employer. The court said that injuries occurring during attendance at dispute resolution events are not compensable.
The court also pointed out that the employer did not control or affect the risk of the car accident.
A dissenting judge stated that since the mediation was mandatory it was an obligation of the employer and worker inherent in the employment contract.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum
January 6, 2011
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