Is bailiff's accident driving home to change clothes compensable?
He decided to call his son and ask him to bring a different tie. Before he called his son, he spilled coffee on his shirt and tie. There were two bailiffs assigned to the courtroom he worked in, so he decided to drive home to change his clothing. He asked the other bailiff assigned to the courtroom to cover for him. The bailiff said it was typical to ask a coworker to cover the courtroom if a bailiff had to run an errand.
The bailiff left the courthouse without notifying his supervisor. He took a radio with him. He changed his shirt and tie at home. As he drove back to work, he was struck by a truck. He suffered serious injuries and spent one month in the hospital. He sought workers' compensation benefits.
The lead bailiff explained that it was customary for one bailiff to cover for another if he needed to make a short trip to the restroom or to copy a document. He said it was not customary for a bailiff to leave the courthouse without seeking permission. A supervisor said bailiffs should advise their supervisor before leaving the courthouse.
The Workers' Compensation Commission concluded that the bailiff's injury arose out of and was in the course of his employment. The Circuit Court reversed.
Was the commission correct in finding the bailiff's injuries were
A. No. The bailiff's actions were not furthering the interests of his employer, and his supervisor did not know about his actions.
B. Yes. The courthouse's policy on attire authorized the bailiff to go home and change his clothing.
C. No. The personal comfort exception applied because he was taking a short break to change his clothes.
How the court ruled: A. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that the bailiff was not entitled to compensation. Garrity v. Injured Workers' Insurance Fund,
et al., No. 1185, September Term, 2010 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 02/09/12).
The court said that ordinarily a worker who suffers an injury going to or returning from his workplace is not considered to be acting in the course of his employment. Despite the bailiff's arguments, the court concluded that the dual purpose doctrine was not applicable. The court said the interests of the courthouse would have been better served if he remained at work even if he thought his attire was inappropriate. A supervisor should have decided whether driving home to change his clothes was furthering the interests of the employer.
B is incorrect. The court pointed out that no one instructed the bailiff to go home and change his shirt and tie. Also, there was nothing in the nature or character of his employment that suggested there was a policy permitting him to leave the courthouse without permission.
C is incorrect. The court explained that the supervisor did not encourage bailiffs to conduct unauthorized errands. Also, it was not reasonable to assume the employer knew he was attending to a personal comfort at his house.
Editor's note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.
March 29, 2012
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