An employee used a company vehicle, which he was allowed to drive, to get coffee and suffered a serious accident. He applied for workers’ comp benefits. Did he receive them?
Jesse Cooper was a master plumber and foreman for Barnickel Enterprises. He’d gone to a location where a job was about to begin to discuss details.
When he arrived, he found the person he needed to talk to was teaching a class and wouldn’t be available for 45 minutes. Cooper decided to go get some coffee at a deli about five miles away.
On the way there, he was involved in a serious accident that broke one of his arms and both of his legs.
The New Jersey Division of Workers’ Compensation awarded Cooper 100% disability.
Barnickel appealed, arguing that Cooper’s accident didn’t arise out of and in the course of his employment.
A state appeals court rejected Barnickel’s argument and said Cooper should receive workers’ comp benefits.
The court said Cooper engaged in “exactly the kind of brief activity which if embarked on by an inside employee working under set time and place limitations, would be compensable under the personal comfort doctrine.”
In other words, accidents occurring during coffee breaks for off-site employees, which are equivalent to those of on-site workers, are eligible for workers’ comp benefits.
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Cite: Cooper v. Barnickel Enterprises, Superior Crt. of NJ Appellate Div., No. A-1813-08T3, 1/13/10. Court opinion is available here (PDF).