• An Employee Injured In a Motor Vehicle Accident That Occurs When He Is Returning To the Workplace from a Lunch Break Was Not Within the Course and Scope of His Employment
  • January 3, 2014 | Author: Paul V. Tatlow
  • Law Firm: Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C. - Wilmington Office
  • Matthew Chapman v. Dentsply Caulk, (IAB #1397867 - decided 9/30/13)

    This case involved a petition to determine compensation due filed on behalf of the claimant alleging that his motor vehicle accident on July 2, 2012, occurred during the course and scope of his employment and, therefore, was compensable.

    The facts show that the claimant was returning to work after his lunch break at a Wawa when he was injured in a car accident. At the time of the accident, the claimant was driving his own vehicle and it occurred approximately two miles from the Employer’s work location. The claimant was an hourly employee who clocked in each morning and who clocked out at the end of the work day, although he did not clock out for lunch time. He thought that he was paid for his lunch break. The Employer presented evidence through its director of human resources indicating that the claimant was not paid for his lunch breaks and that the electronic time system automatically deducted the 30-minute lunch break time from each employee’s timecard. As such, the employees were not required to clock out at lunch time. The witness further testified that this information was provided to the employees when they had their orientation at the time of being hired.

    The Board analyzed this case under the well-known legal proposition that, in order to be compensable, the injury must occur within the course and scope of the claimant’s employment. The Board concluded that the claimant failed to meet his burden of proof since the injury here happened during his lunch break, when he was not even on the Employer’s premises nor in a place where he was required to be in order to perform his job.

    The claimant made the further argument that he was a “traveling employee” because he occasionally drove the Employer’s delivery truck between two plants and, therefore, his auto accident should be found to be a compensable work injury. The Board rejected that argument by reasoning that the mere fact that the claimant drove the delivery truck on occasion did not thereby make him a traveling employee since his primary job was to work at a fixed place of employment; therefore, he was not a true traveling employee. The court further noted that the claimant was in his own, personal vehicle at the time of the accident on a lunch break from his regular job at the fixed work location. Therefore, the Board concluded that the claimant was not within the course and scope of his employment, and the petition was denied outright.