Imagine this: An employee quits, effective immediately. But before he leaves company property, he trips, falls and is injured.
That’s what happened to Paul Marazas, a driver-technician for Vitas Healthcare Corporation. Marazas delivered and picked up medical equipment in a three-state region.
One day, stating he couldn’t continue under current work conditions, Marazas quit his job.
His manager told him he needed to remove his personal belongings from the truck, and she escorted him to do so.
After removing items from the truck, Marazas tripped over a pallet jack and fell.
He filed a civil lawsuit against Vitas in court seeking damages for injuries to his left ankle, left knee and back.
Vitas pled that Marazas was in the scope of employment at the time of the injury, therefore workers’ comp was the exclusive remedy.
Based on that claim, Marazas withdrew his lawsuit and instead filed a claim for workers’ comp benefits.
Then Vitas fought his claim arguing that he’d terminated his employment before he was injured, so he wasn’t covered by workers’ comp.
The WCJ awarded workers’ comp benefits. Vitas appealed, arguing that Marazas quit before he tripped, so the injury wasn’t covered.
The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) sent the case back to the WCJ to assess whether Marazas was within the scope of employment at the time of his injury.
The WCJ found:
- Marazas quit his job before he was injured, but
- He was furthering Vitas’ interests at the time of the injury because he was injured when his employer had requested he perform a specific task (clean his personal belongings out of the truck), therefore
- He was within the scope of his employment when he fell.
Once again, the WCJ awarded workers’ comp benefits to Marazas.
On appeal, the WCAB reversed the judge’s ruling, saying Marazas wasn’t within the scope of employment at the time of his injury because he quit beforehand.
Marazas then took his case to a state court.
Still in course of employment after quitting?
The state court noted that injuries “arising in the course of employment” include those suffered “in furtherance of the business or affairs of the employer.”
In this case, the court found that by removing his belongings from Vitas’ truck under his manager’s supervision, Marazas was furthering the company’s interests.
As for the company’s argument that Marazas shouldn’t receive benefits because he quit before he was injured, the court cited previous case law that said “termination of the employment relationship does not bar workers’ compensation benefits.”
Ultimately, the court found the WCJ had ruled correctly in this case:
“Although Claimant (Marazas) quit before he was injured, he was still within the scope of employment because he was acting at Employer’s direction, and thus furthering Employer’s interests.”
The court reinstated Marazas’ workers’ comp benefits.
What do you think about the decision in this case? Let us know in the comments.
(Paul Marazas v. Vitas Healthcare Corp., Commonwealth Court of PA, No. 337 C.D. 2014, 8/11/14)