Boyd v. W.G. Wade Shows, Docket No. 93145

Citation443 Mich. 515,505 N.W.2d 544
Decision Date31 August 1993
Docket NumberDocket No. 93145,No. 11,M,11
PartiesWillie BOYD (Deceased), and Esther Boyd (Widow), Plaintiff-Appellant, v. W.G. WADE SHOWS and Argonaut Insurance Company, Defendants-Appellees. Calendaray Term.
CourtSupreme Court of Michigan

Braun Kendrick Finkbeiner by Scott C. Strattard and Mark I. Domsic, Saginaw, for plaintiff-appellant.

John Reseigh and Associates, P.C. by John D. Reseigh, Pontiac, for defendants-appellees.


MALLETT, Justice.

The present case involves the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the Bureau of Workers' Disability Compensation. We hold that the bureau has jurisdiction and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


The Bureau of Workers' Disability Compensation addressed the current dispute on a brief stipulation of facts that Willie Boyd was an Illinois resident, that he entered into a contract of employment in Michigan, that while executing his duties pursuant to the contract he sustained a personal injury and died in Indiana, and that the injury and death arose out of and in the course of his employment.

Boyd's widow filed a petition for benefits with the bureau. The magistrate dismissed the claim for want of jurisdiction, and the Workers' Compensation Appellate Commission affirmed. The Court of Appeals denied plaintiff's application for leave to appeal, which this Court then granted. 441 Mich. 930, 498 N.W.2d 738 (1993).


Section 845 of the workers' compensation act grants extraterritorial jurisdiction to the Bureau of Workers' Disability Compensation over claims resulting from injuries that occur outside Michigan.

"The bureau shall have jurisdiction over all controversies arising out of injuries suffered outside this state where the injured employee is a resident of this state at the time of injury and the contract of hire was made in this state. Such employee or his dependents shall be entitled to the compensation and other benefits provided by this act." M.C.L. § 418.845; M.S.A. § 17.237(845).

In addition, the act broadly defines employees covered by the act.

"Every person performing service in the course of the trade, business, profession, or occupation of an employer at the time of the injury, provided the person in relation to this service does not maintain a separate business, does not hold himself or herself out to and render service to the public, and is not an employer subject to this act." M.C.L. § 418.161(1)(d); M.S.A. § 17.237(161)(1)(d).

Juxtaposed against these statutory provisions is Roberts v. I.X.L. Glass Corp., 259 Mich. 644, 244 N.W. 188 (1932), the landmark case interpreting an earlier version of § 845 and enunciating the Michigan rule of law regarding extraterritoriality. In Roberts, the plaintiff contracted for employment in Michigan with a resident corporation. However, he resided, performed all services, and received his injury outside Michigan. The defendant argued that the statutory requirement 1 of residency in the state at the time of the injury limited the jurisdiction of the industry accident board and, for that reason, the board lacked jurisdiction.

This Court disagreed, and concluded that the claimant was entitled to compensation even though he was not a Michigan resident.

"[W]e are satisfied that the reasonable construction and the one necessary to carry out the legislative intent appearing from the whole act is that it covers nonresident as well as resident employees in those cases wherein the contract of employment is entered into in this State with a resident employer." 2

The Court interpreted the jurisdictional provision in pari materia with the respective statutory provisions broadly defining the term "employee" 3 and setting forth the scope of the statute's coverage. 4

"[Defendant's] contention [regarding residency] would come with much, if not controlling, force if it were not in conflict with other portions of the statute. It is quite significant that this recital as to the employee being a resident at the time of injury was embodied by the amendment in the procedural part (part 3) of the act only; but was not inserted in the part of the act (part 1) which defines and fixes the rights and liabilities of employers and employees.... Further, the quoted portion of section 6 5 seems conclusive of the fact that the original enactment was intended to cover 'all employees' regardless of residence or the locus of the accident." Roberts, supra at 647, 244 N.W. 188.

This Court further noted that the statute expressly provided for compensation to the dependents of a fatally injured employee regardless of the residence of the dependents. "As a matter of legislative policy it would be quite inconsistent" 6 to deny compensation to an injured employee because he was a nonresident, while awarding compensation to the dependents of a fatally injured employee regardless of residence.

At the time this Court decided Roberts, the workers' compensation act was elective, that is, an employer was not automatically subject to the act's provisions. However, the Legislature amended the act in 1943, making it compulsory. 7 Shortly after the 1943 amendment, this Court addressed the jurisdictional provision of the act but failed to mention Roberts. See Cline v. Byrne Doors, Inc., 324 Mich. 540, 37 N.W.2d 630 (1949); Daniels v. Trailer Transport Co., 327 Mich. 525, 42 N.W.2d 828 (1950). The omission of Roberts from the analyses of those cases is fathomable; Cline and Daniels are distinguishable from Roberts in that they involved claims for additional benefits under the act after the employee first obtained compensation from the state where the injury occurred.

Some time later, in Austin v. W. Biddle Walker Co., 11 Mich.App. 311, 161 N.W.2d 150 (1968), the Court of Appeals reaffirmed Roberts. Austin was a Kentucky resident who contracted in Michigan with a Michigan corporation. Austin worked for a brief period in Michigan, but was transferred to Kentucky, where he sustained an injury. The WCAB found that because the contract of employment was entered into in Michigan, the board had jurisdiction pursuant to Roberts. The Court of Appeals affirmed and concluded that statutory amendments making the act compulsory had no effect on the holding in Roberts. 8 Judge Levin dissented because of his disagreement with the majority's emphasis on the place of contracting. Nonetheless, he persuasively asserted that strict adherence to the residency requirement in § 845 is neither warranted nor desirable.

"It is now 35 years since Roberts was decided. Whatever may have been the legislative intention at the time of adoption of the residency requirement (CL 1948, § 413.19 [Stat Ann 1960 Rev § 17.193], it would be inappropriate at this late date to attempt to breathe new life into a statutory provision which was aborted so long ago. If the legislature desired to insist on a residency requirement, it could have done so at any time within the last 35 years; it was inferentially invited to do so in Roberts, p 649 ." 9

Despite the continued vitality of Roberts as recognized in Austin, the Court of Appeals has begun to interpret § 845 in contravention of Roberts. In Wolf v. Ethyl Corp., 124 Mich.App. 368, 335 N.W.2d 42 (1983), the plaintiff was hired in Michigan by a Virginia corporation. Following a transfer to and while working in New York, the plaintiff resided in Connecticut. The plaintiff subsequently sustained injuries in a work-related car accident in New York and filed for disability benefits in Michigan. The WCAB concluded that the plaintiff's nonresidence in Michigan at the time of the accident precluded jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals affirmed and held that the clear and unambiguous language of § 845 requires both that the injured employee be a resident of Michigan at the time of injury and that the employment contract was consummated in Michigan.

"We find that the case of Roberts v IXL Glass Corp, 259 Mich 644; 244 NW 188 (1932), which can be read as suggesting a different result, is not applicable to today's modern mandatory workers' compensation scheme.... The present statutory scheme has been made mandatory and has been revised and refined. Being bound not to usurp legislative power, see Const 1963, art 3, § 2; Michigan Harness Horsemen's Ass'n [v. Racing Comm'r, 123 Mich.App. 388, 333 N.W.2d 292 (1983) ], we must apply the clear legislative mandate of the modern act's jurisdictional provisions." 10

The Court then retreated from announcing a new bright line rule by limiting the holding to the facts in that case, because "[q]uestions of residency, dual residency or temporary domicile to perform contractual employment must await case-by-case interpretation." Wolf, supra at 370, 335 N.W.2d 42.

A few years later, the Court of Appeals followed Wolf in a similar case. In Hall v. Chrysler Corp., 172 Mich.App. 670, 432 N.W.2d 398 (1988), reconsideration den. 432 Mich. 931, 442 N.W.2d 625 (1989), the plaintiff was hired in Michigan and later accepted a transfer to Delaware. While working and residing in Delaware, the plaintiff alleged a disabling personal injury and filed for benefits. The WCAB dismissed the claim for lack of jurisdiction and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

"Because of the different nature of the 1912 Workers' Compensation Act, the Wolf Court held the Roberts decision to be inapplicable to the plain language of the Michigan WDCA. We agree with the reasoning contained in the Wolf decision and find that a person must be a resident of the state at the time of the injury and be subject to the terms of an employment contract entered into in Michigan." 11


Wolf and Hall indicate that Roberts is no longer controlling because of amendments made in the workers' compensation act after Roberts was decided. Specifically, those cases suggest that because Roberts was decided at a time when the act was elective, Roberts is no longer valid. However,...

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