Commission member's receipt of workers' compensation derails suit
Drew v. Local Agency Formation Commission of Nevada County, et al., No. C063999 (Cal. Ct. App. 06/20/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal held that a commissioner's suit was barred under the exclusivity provision of workers' compensation.
What it means: In California, a trip to attend a meeting may be considered travel on an employer's business and an exception to the going and coming rule, placing an accident during the travel inside the realm of workers' compensation.
Summary: A commissioner for a county commission was required to travel to and attend the commission's meetings. He was paid a stipend to cover his time at the meetings. He accepted a ride to a meeting in a van owned by the county and driven by the commission's clerk. Upon their return, the clerk stopped the van, and the side door opened so that passengers could get out. Another passenger suggested the clerk move the van up to an empty parking space. The commissioner was beginning to exit the van when the clerk accelerated. The commissioner was thrown to the ground and sustained permanent injuries. He received workers' compensation benefits. He also sued the county, the county commission, and the clerk. The California Court of Appeal held that the commissioner's suit was barred under the exclusivity provision of workers' compensation.
The commissioner did not dispute that he was an employee of the commission but argued that he was not acting in the course of his employment at the time of the accident because he was returning from work. The court concluded that the commissioner's trip to and from the meeting was travel on his employer's business and an exception to the going and coming rule. The court said that the accident did not occur during a local commute to a fixed place of business.
The court explained that another exception to the going and coming rule exists when the employer provides transportation for its worker. Although the van was owned by the county, its occupants were employees of the commission. The court explained that it could reasonably infer that the commission arranged for the use of the county van to transport its employees to the meeting. The court also pointed out that its decision was consistent with the commissioner's receipt of workers' compensation benefits.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 18, 2011
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