Case name: Warner v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, No. B232190 (Cal. Ct. App. 12/27/11, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal held that a firefighter's injuries were compensable.
What it means: In California, a worker's injury that occurs while performing a personal chore that is also benefitting his employer is compensable under the dual purpose rule.
Summary: A firefighter for a county was required to be available 24 hours a day to respond to emergency incidents. He responded to calls from his home more often than from the fire station. Residents sometimes visited his home to request assistance. While he was on duty at home, the firefighter finished some paperwork and walked outside to inspect the equipment on his fire truck. His wife asked him to trim wisteria in front of their home. The firefighter fell off a ladder and injured his neck, back, elbow, wrist, and shoulder. He sought benefits. The California Court of Appeal held that he was entitled to benefits.
The court explained that trimming the wisteria ensured that residents would have safe access to the firefighter's house and that he could safely reach his fire truck when responding to emergency calls. The county required firefighters to maintain the fire station grounds, including trimming bushes, as part of their employment duties. The court said that under the dual purpose doctrine, the firefighter was engaging in an activity that benefitted both himself and the county. Therefore, the court found the firefighter's injury arose out of his employment and was proximately caused by his employment.
A dissenting judge opined that the firefighter's injury was not compensable. The judge pointed out that there was no evidence that the firefighter's wife or the firefighter wanted to trim the wisteria "as a safety measure for members of the public who came to the residence for services."
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February 9, 2012
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