Worker's accident while driving to work fails to add up to special mission
Case name: American Home Assurance Co. v. De Los Santos, No. 04-10-00852-CV (Tex. Ct. App. 01/18/12).
Ruling: The Texas Court of Appeals held that a worker's widow was not entitled to death benefits because the worker was not in the course and scope of his employment when the accident occurred.
What it means: In Texas, evidence that a worker was on a special mission for the employer can help establish that a worker was in the course and scope of his employment.
Summary: A worker did not have an office job but was assigned to work on a gas lease on a large piece of fenced farmland. His employer furnished him with a company-owned truck and paid for his work-related fuel expenses. The truck was not for personal use. He spent a significant part of his workday traveling to wells and job sites. He traveled to the same location each day to begin his workday. The worker was fatally injured in a motor vehicle accident while driving from home to work. The worker's widow sought benefits. The Texas Court of Appeals held that she was not entitled to benefits because the worker was not in the course and scope of his employment when the accident occurred.
The worker was scheduled to meet a work acquaintance at a well. The meeting was not scheduled by the employer. The worker agreed to bring a barrel to catch any petroleum liquid that spilled while they were working on the well. The court rejected the widow's contention that the worker was on a special mission when the accident occurred. He was traveling on his customary route on a public highway to his regular work site, and he was not acting under the specific direction of his employer at the time of the accident.
The court found that the travel did not originate in the employer's business. Evidence did not show why the employer furnished the truck to the worker. The evidence did not show it was necessary to furnish him with the truck in order to induce him to work at the work site.
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March 12, 2012
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