Driver's violation of work rule foils claim for serious injury
Case name: Miller v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board, No. 2306 C.D. 2011 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 06/22/12).
Ruling: The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that a driver was not entitled to benefits for his foot injury because he was acting outside the course and scope of his employment when he was injured.
What it means: In Pennsylvania, when an employer asserts that a worker violated a work rule, the employer must prove that the injury was caused by the rule violation, the worker knew of the rule, and the rule implicated an activity not connected with the worker's work duties.
Summary: A pallet jack driver would sometimes "jump on a forklift" at work. He admitted that certification was required to operate a forklift, and he did not have the certification. He knew that unauthorized personnel were not permitted to operate the forklift. He finished his work 30 minutes early, so he jumped on a forklift and drove it around before heading to the punch-out area. He said the forklift was "fun to drive." While riding the forklift, he crashed into a pole. The driver's foot had been sticking out of the forklift and was crushed upon impact. He knew he was not to extend any part of his foot beyond the platform of the forklift. He sought benefits. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that he was not entitled to benefits.
The employer argued that the driver's actions removed him from the course and scope of his employment because he violated a work rule. The court agreed, stating that the employer's lead man credibly testified that workers were not permitted to be on equipment without being certified, and the driver was not certified to operate the forklift. The driver admitted to driving the forklift without authorization. The court found that the employer demonstrated that the driver was injured because he drove the forklift in violation of a work rule, he knew of the work rule prohibiting unauthorized personnel from driving the forklift, and driving the forklift was not an activity connected with his work duties.
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September 6, 2012
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