Safety and OSHA News

Was fatal car crash exception to workers’ comp coming-and-going rule?

A manager was asked to travel to one of his employer’s locations outside of his regular shift to check on a problem. On the way there, he was involved in a car crash and died of his injuries. Should his dependents get workers’ comp benefits? 

Mandeep Rana worked as a manager-in-training for a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Pennsylvania with three locations. He was primarily assigned to the Wyncote location but was also expected to occasionally travel to the two others to deliver products or cover for sick employees.

One night Rana received a call from the franchise owner at 10 p.m. that an employee at the Hatfield location had become ill. Rana said he’d drive to the store and check on the situation.

Rana and another employee were involved in a car crash en route to the store. Two days later, Rana died due to the injuries he suffered in the crash.

His parents filed a workers’ comp claim as dependents of Rana. A workers’ comp judge found Rana was furthering his employer’s business and on a special assignment at the time of the crash. Therefore, the usual coming-and-going rule (no workers’ comp benefits for injuries suffered traveling to or from work) didn’t apply, and Rana’s parents should receive benefits as his dependents. The judge also ordered the employer to pay medical expenses.

The employer appealed, arguing that Rana was performing his regular job duties. The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board reversed the WCJ’s decision, concluding Rana was performing his regular job duties. Rana appealed, and recently a Pennsylvania court took up his case.

On appeal, Rana’s parents argued their son had no fixed place of employment, therefore the injuries he suffered traveling to the Hatfield Dunkin’ Donuts location were compensable.

The franchise owner argued Rana worked at all three donut shop locations, therefore he had a fixed place of employment. The owner said it wasn’t unusual for Rana to work at one of the two locations where he wasn’t a manager once a week.

The court ruled that Rana was a stationary employee of the store he managed. However, he wasn’t a stationary employee of the other two locations. In those instances when Rana had to go to one of the two other stores, he was a traveling employee.

That meant while he was driving to the Hatfield store on the night of the crash, he was working for his employer on the drive from his home to the store. That meant Rana’s injuries were sustained in the scope and course of his employment and are compensable.

The court went on to say that, even if Rana was considered a stationary employee at all three locations, his injuries could still be deemed compensable. That’s because as a stationary employee, Rana would have been on a special assignment on the night of the crash.

Rana was working outside of his regular duties. He had already worked a morning shift on the day of the crash. Then the owner called him to check on a situation at 10 p.m.

“A claimant qualifies for the special assignment exception (to the coming-and-going rule) when acting in accordance with responsibilities as an ‘on call’ employee,” the court wrote.

This case is remanded to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board to resolve other issues, including whether Rana’s parents qualify as his dependents.

(Mandeep Rana v. Asha Corp., Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, No. 1401 C.D.2016, 9/29/17)

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