A company operated a coal mine and offered a free medical clinic staffed by a paramedic at the mine complex. The clinic was established to provide first aid and emergency services for employees but also served nonemployees in the area. When the clinic was closed, employees and others could obtain medical assistance by contacting the on-duty paramedic at the clinic crew quarters. The clinic was the only medical facility within 19 miles for treating emergencies.
A worker for the mine worked the day shift. That evening after he had dinner at home he began feeling ill and went to the clinic. The emergency medical technician on call examined him and administered aspirin. Later, the worker collapsed at his home. The worker's family summoned the paramedic, who responded to the home and attempted to stabilize the worker. The worker subsequently died from a heart attack.
The worker's widow sued the company and paramedic. The company sought to dismiss the suit, arguing that workers' compensation provided the widow's exclusive remedy. The trial court dismissed the suit, finding that the widow's exclusive remedy was workers' compensation. The widow appealed.
Was the trial court correct in dismissing the widow's suit?
A. No. The worker's injury did not occur in the course of his employment.
B. Yes. The worker's injury arose out of his employment because there was a causal connection between his employment and the allegedly negligent medical treatment.
An injury sustained in an after-hours company clinic is compensable under workers' compensation.
How the court ruled: A. The Arizona Court of Appeals held that the widow's suit was not barred by the exclusive remedy provision. Herrera v. Courtney, No. 1 CA-CV 12-0104 (Ariz. Ct. App. 06/18/13, unpublished).
The court concluded that workers' compensation did not apply because the worker's injury was not sustained in the course of his employment. The court explained that the worker had clocked out of work hours before he fell ill, and seeking medical assistance was not a task he was employed to perform. He went back to the clinic for treatment of a nonwork-related condition. The court pointed out that the worker did not go to the clinic because it was a fringe benefit but because it was the only service available to assist him.
B is incorrect. The court explained that the worker's injury did not arise out of his employment. His medical care at the clinic was identical to the care the clinic would have provided to any member of the public. The incident leading up to his treatment was not related to his employment. Also, he was not on duty and simply went to the clinic for treatment as any member of the public could because it was the only facility reasonably available.
C is incorrect. The court said that no Arizona court addressed whether workers' compensation applied to an injury sustained in an after-hours company clinic. Under the circumstances of this case, an injury to an off-duty employee seeking treatment for a condition unrelated to his employment at an employer's clinic that is open to the public and is the only available facility for medical emergencies was not covered by workers' compensation.
CHRISTINA LUMBRERAS is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications.
She can be reached at email@example.com.
October 8, 2013
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