HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania court denied a petition by Lutheran Senior Services Management Company to overturn the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board’s ruling in favor of an employee who claimed he was injured while working for the company.

Judges Renee Cohn Jubelirer, Patricia McCullough and James Gardner Colins of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the June 8 order of the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, which upheld the decision of the Workers’ Compensation judge granting the claim of Jerry Miller.

The former Lutheran Senior Services maintenance supervisor alleged he was working at the request of his supervisor when he was seriously injured in a car accident.

Court papers state that Miller filed a claim on April 22, 2014, alleging ongoing disability from a “broken eye socket, broken pelvis, ruptured bladder, (and) multiple scars and disfigurements” arising out of a “work related motor vehicle accident” on March 13, 2014.

Although Workers’ Compensation normally does not cover an employee during the commute to and from work, unless covered in an employment agreement, there are exceptions. In petitioning the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, Lutheran Senior Services argued that the requirements for these special circumstances had not been met by Miller, and that compensation for the accident was precluded by the “coming and going rule.”

The appeal board rejected the company’s argument, writing: "policy provides that an ‘on call’ employee is on the clock from the time he leaves home, (this) is a special circumstance which causes Claimant’s motor vehicle accident to be in the course and scope of his employment.”

In reviewing the decision of the appeal board, the court relied on case law where special circumstances have rendered compensation for an injury during a commute when an employer asked an employee to come to work, the request is for the convenience of the employer or in furtherance of its business, and the trip is not simply for the convenience of the employee. The court stated that the request by an employer can be direct and obvious, or it may be implied in order to qualify as a special request.

The claimant and his supervisor, Diane Seip, stated in court papers that the company had an “on call” system in place for the maintenance staff to ensure an issue that merited immediate attention would be addressed, even if it occurred after normal staff work hours.

On the day of Miller’s automobile accident, Seip stated that she told him by phone the security cameras were malfunctioning. According to Miller’s testimony, he told his boss he was sick but would come to work and fix the cameras, then return home.

In issuing its decision, the three-judge panel referenced the opinion of the workers’ compensation judge, which stated: “While Claimant has a fixed place of employment and his commute to work would ordinarily not be deemed in the course of his employment, special circumstances were present on the day of injury … so as to earmark Claimant’s commute to work that day as being on a ‘special mission’ for employer.”

 

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