Benefits allowed for custodian's injury while trying to stop rolling car
Case name: Stokes v. Coweta County Board of Education, No. A11A2062 (Ga. Ct. App. 01/11/12).
Ruling: The Georgia Court of Appeals held that a custodian's injury due to her car rolling over her foot was compensable.
What it means: In Georgia, a worker's injury while instinctively responding to a dangerous situation while on duty and performing a work-related task benefitting her employer is compensable.
Summary: The head custodian for an elementary school was required to unlock and open the gates leading to the school parking lot before other employees arrived each morning. She drove up to the gate and it was dark and raining. She pulled her car close to the gate so that her headlights could shine on the lock. While she was unlocking the gate, her car began to roll downhill, away from the gate. On instinct, she ran toward the car in an attempt to stop it. She tripped and fell, and the car rolled over her left foot. A few days later, her foot had to be amputated. She sought benefits. The Georgia Court of Appeals held that the custodian's injury was compensable.
At the time the custodian's car began to roll, she was on duty, physically located where her job duties required her to be, and she was unlocking the gate, a task required by her job duties and of benefit to the school. The court said that "but for the necessity that she stop her car on the sloped driveway" to open the gate, the accident would not have occurred.
The court explained that this was not an instance where a worker consciously decided to take advantage of a break in her workday to run a personal errand. The custodian responded "instinctively and instantaneously" to a dangerous situation that arose directly out of the performance of her job duties. To say that her attempt to stop the rolling car was a personal mission would contravene the humanitarian purpose of workers' compensation, the court said.
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February 13, 2012
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