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Tighe v. Jack Trebour Motorcycles, LLC

A-0205-04T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

WORKERS COMPENSATION — An employee injured during a deviation from an assigned route is not entitled to workers compensation coverage if the deviation was for purely private purposes and not a minor one for certain basic needs such as to go to the bathroom.

An employee of a motor cycle shop borrowed a motorcycle from his employer in order to participate in an employer-sponsored promotional motorcycle event. The employee diverted from the direct route to the event to pick up a fellow employee and was injured in an accident on the way to the event. The employee was awarded worker’s compensation benefits and the employer appealed. The worker’s compensation judge determined that the accident occurred during the course of employment, holding that the employee’s diversion from the most direct route toward the site of the event constituted a “special mission” exception to the “going and coming rule.” The “special mission” exception protects an employee who is required to be away from the place of employment for work related activities. An employee who is off-premises and engaged in the direct performance of his or her duties is entitled to compensation if that employee is injured during the course of that off-site work related activity. However, if an employee deviates from the mission and is injured during that time, the employee would not be entitled to worker’s compensation for the injury unless it was a minor deviation to deal with certain basic needs (i.e., going to the bathroom). An employee generally is not entitled to compensation if he or she is injured while taking care of personal business (i.e., stopping at a bank or post office) on the way to the off-site job site to which he was assigned. In this case, the worker’s compensation judge determined that the employee’s deviation from his route to pick up his co-worker was not a personal activity. He found that it was a safety diversion, relying on the employee’s testimony that is always better to ride a motorcycle with a partner.

The Appellate Division disagreed and reversed, disagreeing with the worker’s compensation judge’s characterization of the deviation as a safety measure. It found that the employee could have met the co-worker at the site of the motorcycle event and that there was no reason why he had to pick him up at a shopping mall several miles away from the site of the event. The Court also found that, in order to pick up the co-worker, the employee had to drive past the exit he would normally take to go to the event, had to drive several miles out of his way to pick up the co-worker, and then had to circle back to get back to the correct exit. It deemed the employee’s diversion to pick up a co-worker to be unnecessary for his job, and as such it was a personal activity not within the scope of his employment. Therefore, he was not entitled to worker’s compensation benefits for the injuries suffered in the accident during his personal activity.

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