The owner of a company that moved mobile homes from sales sites to the buyers' place of installation was severely injured in a single vehicle accident while he was on the way to a business associate's property to hunt for deer. The owner sustained serious memory problems due to his injuries and was unable to recall what happened. His girlfriend said that he told her he had a work-related business meeting and was also going to go hunting. The associate said the owner asked if he could hunt on his property. The owner did not indicate that he wanted to discuss any business with him but said he planned to meet with the manager of a mobile home company after hunting for several hours.
On the morning of the accident, the owner called the associate four times while he was traveling, saying that he was lost. The owner exited the highway that led to his business meeting and drove on a road toward the associate's property. He also expressed concern that he was running out of gas. During the last phone conversation, the owner drove his truck through a railing and into a creek bed below. The associate went out and located the truck with the owner inside, dressed in camouflage.
The owner sought workers' compensation benefits, alleging that he was injured in the course and scope of his employment. The owner argued that the dual purpose doctrine or mutual benefit doctrine applied. The mutual benefit doctrine applies if an employee is injured while engaging in an act that benefits both the employer and the employee and the employer benefits from the conduct. The administrative law judge held that he was entitled to compensation. The labor and industrial relations commission reversed, finding that since the owner was on his way to go hunting, there was no dual purpose or mutual benefit to his employer to make the accident compensable.
Was the commission correct in denying compensation to the owner?
A.No.The dual purpose doctrine was satisfied because the owner would have traveled to the business meeting even if he was not going hunting.
B.Yes.The owner deviated from his route to the business meeting to go hunting when the accident occurred.
C.No.The owner benefited his employer when he exited the highway to search for gasoline.
How the court ruled: B. The Missouri Court of Appeals held that the owner was not entitled to benefits. Wilson v. Wilson, No. WD73742 (Mo. Ct. App. 12/20/11).
The court said that the owner was on a "significant spatial deviation" from the route to his business meeting when he was injured. He sought directions from the associate to go hunting. The court explained that the commission was correct in concluding that the owner's multi-hour personal mission was a substantial deviation from his employer's purposes.
A is incorrect. The court explained that at the time of the accident, the owner deviated form his route to the business meeting to go hunting. If he had canceled his hunting trip, he would not have driven on the road where the accident occurred.
C is incorrect. The court explained that by the time the owner became concerned that his truck was low on gasoline, he had already deviated from his employer's business to go hunting.
Editor's note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.
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February 2, 2012
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