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Kan.: Where Work Required Travel, Accident Injury Was Compensable

By Susan R. Heylman  6/27/2014
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The going and coming rule did not bar a workers’ compensation award for an employee injured in a car accident on the way home from a job site because the very nature of the work necessitated travel to ever-changing locations. Consequently, the injury occurred in the course and scope of the worker’s employment, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled.

The claimant worked the dayshift at drill sites approximately 60 miles from his home. Ordinarily, on the days he worked, he would travel with his supervisor in the supervisor’s personal vehicle to and from the drill sites. If the supervisor was not available to provide transportation, the employer reimbursed mileage for the crew members for driving their personal vehicles.

On the day the claimant was injured, he accepted a ride home after work with another employee in that employee’s personal vehicle. On the drive home, a tire blew out on the vehicle and the car rolled several times. The claimant was ejected and injured.

The Workers’ Compensation Board found that the claimant’s injury arose out of and in the course of his employment because the very nature of the work necessitated travel to ever-changing locations, so that the going and coming rule did not apply.

When the employer sought review, the court of appeals reversed the board. It determined that the claim was barred by the going and coming rule because the claimant’s travel with his coworker at the time of his injury was for a personal reason—he would get home faster—and the proximate cause of his injury was the coworker’s negligence.

The state supreme court reversed, reinstating the board’s decision. It ruled that the court of appeals erred when it treated the established facts of the case as only supportive of one finding as a matter of law—that the claimant was ineligible for recovery under the going and coming rule. If there was substantial competent evidence to support the board’s finding that the tire blowout occurred while the claimant was in the course and scope of his employment—during travel intrinsic to his duties for the employer—then the court of appeals’ limited role required it to affirm the board’s decision, the court held.

The substantial competent evidence in the record on appeal showed that the claimant’s job as an oil drilling crew member required that he travel to ever-changing remote drill sites. The supervisor testified that the claimant would not be employed if he was unwilling to travel to those sites. The employer also had provided an elective travel option to its employees.

“The Court of Appeals crossed a line from evaluating this evidence in light of the record as a whole to test whether it supported the Board’s fact-finding into ruling as a matter of law on evidence that was, although undisputed, conflicting under the governing statute,” the court concluded. 

Williams v. Petromark Drilling LLC, Kan., No. 108,125 (June 6, 2014).

Susan R. Heylman, J.D., is a freelance legal writer and editor based in the Washington, D.C., area.

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