You Be the Judge

Worker Injured While Going Above Call of Duty

The court debates whether a worker's travel injury was related to work or to an act of personal generosity.
By: | October 10, 2014

An in-home caregiver for two severely disabled brothers was instructed to arrive at the clients’ home at 7:45 a.m. Her husband also worked as a caregiver for the clients. Her duties include preparing meals for the clients. The clients’ parents were responsible for grocery shopping. The caregiver said that she sometimes provided food if the parents did not have everything they needed. The caregiver was not reimbursed for these groceries.

The caregiver lived 30 miles from the clients’ home. She was not paid mileage or expenses for traveling to work.

The caregiver was riding as a passenger in her husband’s truck. While driving to the clients’ home, they stopped at a gas station. The caregiver went into the store and bought groceries. She planned to use the groceries in her meal preparations for the clients that day. After leaving the gas station, the truck was involved in a serious accident. The caregiver suffered significant injuries, including fractures to her neck and back. She sought workers’ compensation benefits.

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The caregiver maintained that she was “on the clock” and being paid at the time of the accident. The employer disputed this assertion, explaining that the caregiver was not on the clock until she entered the clients’ home and started working.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission denied compensation, finding that the caregiver was traveling to work and not performing employment services at the time of the accident. The caregiver appealed, asserting that her injuries arose out of and in the course of her employment.

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The court explained that the critical inquiry was whether the caregiver was performing employment services at the time of her injuries. The test was whether the injury occurred within the time and space boundaries of employment when the worker was carrying out the employer’s purpose or advancing the employer’s interest.

The court concluded that the caregiver was not performing employment services at the time of the accident. The court said that while her actions in bringing food to the clients may have been “generous and admirable” the actions were “clearly not part of her job duties.”

A is incorrect. The court said that the caregiver was not required or expected to provide groceries for the clients, and she acknowledged that the clients’ father did not ask her to stop and purchase groceries that day. Her stop for groceries was not part of her job duties.

C is incorrect.The court found that the caregiver was not grocery shopping or doing anything related to her job at the time of her injury. She was merely traveling to work.

How the court ruled: B.The Arkansas Court of Appeals held that the caregiver was not entitled to benefits for her injuries. Black v. First Step, Inc., No. CV-14-46 (Ark. Ct. App. 05/28/14).

Editor’s note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.

Christina Lumbreras is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]