Department of Correction v. Harris, 340

Decision Date28 June 1963
Docket NumberNo. 340,340
Citation232 Md. 180,192 A.2d 479
PartiesDEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION et al. v. James C. HARRIS.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Charles R. Goldsborough, Jr., Sp. Atty., Baltimore (Thomas B. Finan, Atty. Gen., J. Howard Holzer, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., and J. Raymond Buffington, Jr., Sp. Atty., Baltimore, on the brief), for appellants.

No appearance for appellee.

Before BRUNE, C. J., and HENDERSON, HAMMOND, HORNEY and MARBURY, JJ.

HAMMOND, Judge.

The appellee, a prisoner in the penitentiary, fell while descending the steps from the second to the first floor, en route from the sewing shop on the fourth floor, where he worked as a sewing machine operator, to the infirmary on the first floor, where he went daily for treatment of a physical condition unrelated in any way to his work. The Compensation Commission awarded compensation, and Judge Cardin, saying that the only question before him was whether the claimant was on the premises of the employer when he was injured, affirmed.

The facts were not in dispute, and the right of the claimant to receive compensation became a matter of law.

Harris had previously been operated on in the prison hospital for an ailment, the origin of which was entirely unrelated to any penitentiary activity. The incision became infected and required daily sitz baths. For about a month Harris had left the sewing shop each day to go to the infirmary to soak the wound, and then he would wait until the pores had dried before returning to work. The process took from twenty to forty-five minutes, depending on how long he had to wait in the infirmary before he was treated.

On the morning of the day he was injured he went to work at eight-thirty, the usual time, at his customary task in the sewing room. After ten, and before ten-thirty o'clock, he showed his pass to the infirmary to the shop officer, left the sewing room on the fourth floor, went down the stairs to the third floor and through the shoe shop on that floor, then down another flight of stairs to the second floor on which the cutting shop was. As he stepped from the landing, near the cutting shop door, to go down the stairs to the first floor, he slipped on some soap and fell half way down the flight of steps, injuring his back.

At the time of the injury, in March 1961, Maryland had a provision, Code (1960 Supp.), Art. 101, Sec. 35, making the compensation law applicable to prisoners engaged in extra-hazardous work in the penitentiary or House of Correction. 1 It was under this provision that the Commission and the court acted.

A claimant of compensation, to be successful, must show an injury due to an accident arising both out of, and in the course of, his employment. It has been said that the words 'out of' refer to the cause or origin of the accident, while the phrase 'in the course of' refers to the time, place and circumstances under which it occurs. There must be a causal connection between the conditions under which the work is required to be done and the ensuing injury. The causative danger must be incidental to the nature of the work and not independent of the relation of master and servant. This is to say that the injury arises out of employment when it results from some obligation, condition or incident of the employment, under the circumstances of the particular case. Scherr v. Miller, 229 Md. 538, 543, 184 A.2d 916; Perdue v. Brittingham, 186 Md. 393, 402, 47 A.2d 491.

An injury arises in the course of employment when it happens during the period of employment at a place where the employee reasonably may be in the performance of his duties 'and while he is fulfilling those duties or engaged in something incident thereto.' Inquiries pertinent in this regard include: When did the period of employment begin? When did it end? When was its continuity broken? How far did the employee, during the period of employment, place himself outside the employment? Watson v. Grimm, 200 Md. 461, 466, 90 A.2d 180.

We cannot see that claimant's injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. His walk from the sewing shop toward the infirmary was not motivated or caused by any condition of his work, it was not incidental to the business, and the danger of harm in walking down the steps was independent of the relation of master and servant, and a danger common to all the prisoners, without regard to their work. The case, in this respect, is analogous to Miller v. United Rwys. & Elec. Co., 161 Md. 404, 408, 157 A. 292, 293, in which a street car cleaner was killed by an automobile as he was crossing a street after having alighted from one street car to transfer to another to ride, on a company pass, to get his pay at one of four car barns designated by the company. Chief Judge Bond said for the Court: 'The hazards of the streets were not hazards into which his employment with the railways company had sent him; they seem to have been, rather, hazards voluntarily met by Miller in common with all other citizens on the streets that day.'

Harris did not fall during the performance of his duties of operating a sewing machine or the doing of any activity incident thereto. The continuity of the employment was broken when he left work to go on a personal errand. The medical treatment he left work to get was not the equivalent of a break from work for rest, relief or refreshment. It had no more relation to his work than any medical care has in keeping an employee in good enough health generally to be able to work or continue to work.

An injury to an employee while on a personal errand or away from work in connection with his own affairs has been held not compensable. Atlantic Refining Company v. Forrester, 180 Md. 517, 25 A.2d 667; Perdue v. Brittingham, supra. In Forrester, an oil company sales promoter, spending the week in Aberdeen at the instance of the employer, to further its sales, was killed in the early morning hours while on a trip to a night club taken primarily for his own pleasure. It was held that the accident did not arise out of and in the course of his employment despite the fact that while at the night club he transacted some business for his employer. In Perdue, the driver of a motor truck was struck and killed by a passing car while standing on the center line of the highway about a quarter of a mile from his truck, which he had parked ten or fifteen feet off the dual highway it had been travelling. The driver had left the truck two hours before he was killed. There was nothing to show he needed help for the truck or himself, or where he had been in the two-hour interval. It was held there was no evidence legally sufficient to establish that the driver's death arose out of, or in the course of, employment.

In O'Neil v. Carley Heater Co., 218 N.Y. 414, 113 N.E. 406, L.R.A.1917A, an employee, installing his employer's product in a manufacturing plant, became ill. An employee of the plant suggested he go to a place in the plant he designated, to take epsom salts. He went and took chloride of barium by mistake, and died. His death was held not compensable. In Pierson v. Interborough Rapid Transit Co., 184 App.Div. 678, 172 N.Y.S. 492, the employee, while on the way to his dentist during a two-hour layoff from work, was killed by a train of his employer. It was held that the compensation act did not apply and that his personal representatives could maintain a tort action...

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