Principal secures comp for gunshot injuries while driving to work
Case name: Hunt v. Public Schools of Robeson County, No. COA11-1110 (N.C. Ct. App. 04/03/12).
Ruling: The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that a school principal's injuries that occurred when he was shot while driving to school and talking on his cellphone were compensable.
What it means: In North Carolina, a worker's injuries arise out of his employment if the nature of the employment creates or increases a risk to which the worker is exposed.
Summary: A principal for a middle school was driving his car from home to his job when an unknown assailant pulled alongside him and shot him in the face and hand. His injuries required multiple procedures and plastic surgeries. At the time, he was talking to an employee about school-related issues on a cellphone provided by the school. The school also paid him a travel allowance. The principal believed he was shot due to his role as a school administrator and his involvement in anti-gang activities. He sought workers' compensation for his injuries. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to benefits.
The court disagreed with the school's contention that the principal's injuries were not related to his employment. There was evidence that he was shot due to his anti-gang activities related to his work. Also, some gang members and parents did not like what he stood for, and one parent threatened to kill him.
The court also found that the principal's injuries occurred in the course of his employment. His job required him to be on call 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The conversation he was having with an employee was an allowable use of the cellphone to conduct school business.
The court concluded that the principal's injuries fell under the contractual duty exception to the coming and going rule. His employment contract stated that he would be paid a travel allowance. He said he used the allowance to cover the expenses of traveling to and from the school.
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May 31, 2012
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