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Rivera v. Dubell Lumber Co.

A-2583-02T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

WORKERS COMPENSATION; RIDE SHARING—When a company provides an employee with a car and, known or unknown to the company, that employee drives another employee to work on a daily basis, the passenger, if injured during such a ride, is entitled to workers compensation benefits.

A lumber company employee was injured on his way to work and sought workers compensation coverage. His supervisor had an arrangement with the company’s principal, wherein the supervisor was given a company truck to drive from his house to the daily work. Each day, the supervisor picked up and dropped off the employee from the employee’s house. On one of these daily trips, the truck was rear-ended by a tractor trailer.

A critical requirement for recovery under the Workers’ Compensation Act is proof that the employee suffered an injury caused by an “accident arising out of and in the course of his employment.” The relevant statute defines “employment,” and includes a “ride sharing provision.” It sets forth that, “[e]mployment shall also be deemed to commence when an employee is traveling in a ridesharing arrangement between his or her place of residence or terminal near such place and his or her place of employment, if one of the following conditions is satisfied: the vehicle used in the ridesharing arrangement is owned, leased or contracted for by the employer, or the employee is required by the employer to travel in a ridesharing arrangement.”

The Court found it to be irrelevant that the company’s principal was unaware of the ridesharing arrangement between the injured employee and his supervisor. The principal’s arrangement with the supervisor, in providing a company car, benefited both parties, and the supervisor was acting under apparent authority of the principal when giving the employee a daily ride. Despite the principal’s lack of knowledge, the supervisor was acting as the principal’s agent.

Consequently, the Court found the “ridesharing provision” definition applicable to these facts, consistent with legislative intent, and within that the plain meaning of the statute.

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