Case name: Mercy Logging, LLC v. Odom, No. 2101061 (Ala. Civ. App. 07/27/12).
Ruling: The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals held that a driver was not entitled to benefits for a rattlesnake bite.
What it means: In Alabama, an exception to the going and coming rule exists when an employer furnishes transportation to and from work.
Summary: A logging company provided employees with a ride to and from the work site in a labor truck. A log truck driver rode in the labor truck back to the service station where he parked his personal vehicle. A foreman who was driving the truck saw a diamondback rattlesnake on the road near the jobsite. He began driving the truck toward the snake in an attempt to run over it and kill it. Two other employees suggested they catch it instead. The driver, who had previously caught 100 snakes, grasped the snake behind its head and dropped it into a bucket. He was repeatedly bitten on both hands. The driver was hospitalized for 40 days and participated in physical therapy. He sought workers' compensation benefits. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals held that he was not entitled to benefits.
The court had "some doubt" about whether the driver's injury occurred within the course of his employment. His injury occurred within the period of his employment and in a place where he might reasonably be. It could be inferred that the company implied consent to the snake-catching because the foreman stopped the truck.
The driver argued that removing poisonous snakes from the roadway benefitted the company because snakes were an occupational hazard to loggers in the woods. The court said that even assuming the work site potentially benefitted, the potential benefit was outweighed by the potential detriment that could result from losing the services of an employee who could be seriously injured while catching the snake.
The court found that the accident did not arise out of the driver's employment. It did not occur while he was conducting logging operations or while he was at the work site. The court found that the snake posed no risk to the driver as long as he remained in the truck. Once he exited the truck and attempted to catch the snake, the risk that caused his injury was personal to him and not related to his employment.
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September 27, 2012
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