Occasionally, his supervisor asked him to drive a coworker to the job site. The operator carried his personal tools in his truck for use on the job. The company provided all the tools for the job, but the operator liked to have his own tools for convenience. Sometimes, the operator used his truck to run errands for the company during the workday. A company vehicle was available for errands, but the operator preferred using his own truck.
As the operator was leaving for the day, he noticed that a coworker who used the shuttle was still on site. He asked his supervisor whether he should offer the coworker a ride home, and the supervisor said he should. The coworker accepted the ride. While driving home, the operator's truck had a tire failure, which caused the truck to roll over. The operator sustained fractures to his spine.
The operator sought benefits. The company denied benefits. The administrative law judge also denied benefits on the basis of the going and coming rule. The Labor Commission affirmed the denial of benefits. The operator appealed.
Was the ALJ correct in denying benefits to the operator?
A. No. The operator's transportation of his coworker home from the job site exempted his trip on the day of the accident from the going and coming rule.
B. No. The company regularly relied on the operator's truck to run errands.
C. Yes. The operator's truck had not become an instrumentality of the company's business.
How the court ruled: C. The Utah Court of Appeals held that the operator was not entitled to benefits based on the going and coming rule. Jex v. Labor Commission, No. 20100674-CA (Utah Ct. App. 04/05/12).
The court considered the totality of the circumstances before disagreeing with the operator's contention that his act of transporting his truck to and from the work site was within the course and scope of his employment because the truck had been effectively integrated into the company's business. The court said the operator's acts provided the company with only minimal or occasional benefits.
The court said that the operator's transport and storage of tools in his truck did not make his vehicle an instrumentality of the company's business. The company provided all the tools needed for completing the work. The operator admitted that his personal tools were a convenience.
A is incorrect. The court pointed out that the operator's offer to transport the coworker home was the product of his own initiative rather than a solicitation by the company. The supervisor said the coworker could have continued working and gotten another ride home. The court said the operator's transportation of the coworker didn't provide the company with any substantial benefit. The trip was not a special errand, and the injuries arose from his trip home from work.
B is incorrect. The court explained that the availability of company vehicles meant that the operator's truck was not required for errands.
Editor's note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.
May 23, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications