An employee was talking on his company-issued cell phone to a co-worker in his own car when he was shot in the face by someone in a passing vehicle. Now a state court has ruled that the employee should receive workers’ comp benefits.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals says James Hunt, a former middle school principal, should receive comp benefits from his employer, Robeson County Schools.
Hunt was hit by a shotgun blast on April 9, 2009, as he was driving to school. The principal was on the phone talking with a school staff member about school business.
Officials from Robeson County Schools argued that workers’ comp should not cover Hunt’s medical bills because the shooting happened while he was away from school property.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission had already ruled in Hunt’s favor. The school district took the case to the appeals court.
The appeals court judges noted in their opinion that Hunt was talking on a school-owned cell phone to one of his employees about school issues when he was shot.
The case could have implications for other employers. The appeals court upheld the original decision of a state workers’ comp commissioner who wrote, “Hunt’s injury occurred in the course and scope of his employment because his responsibilities as principal required him to be on call at all times and to address emergent issues and other school matters by mobile phone while out of the office, including in the morning while commuting to school. Therefore, because Hunt was conducting school business by mobile phone at the time of his accident, the accident occurred within the course and scope of his employment.”
Coming and going rules would normally determine that an incident while commuting doesn’t qualify for workers’ comp. However, cell phones may be changing that.