Immer & Co. v. Brosnahan

Citation207 Va. 720, 152 S.E.2d 254
Case DateJanuary 16, 1967
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia

Page 254

152 S.E.2d 254
207 Va. 720
Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia.
Jan. 16, 1967.

[207 Va. 721] Norman F. Slenker, Arlington (Duff & Slenker, Arlington, on brief), for appellants.

Page 255

Gerald Herz, Washington, D.C. (I. Irwin Bolotin, Lesser & Lesser, Washington, D.C., on brief), for appellee.


CARRICO, Justice.

The novel question presented by this workmen's compensation appeal is whether an employee who suffers a compensable injury may be awarded compensation for additional injuries suffered in an automobile accident occurring while the employee is en route from his place of employment to a doctor's office for further treatment of the original injury.

The Industrial Commission awarded to Francis X. Brosnahan, the employee, compensation for additional injuries suffered in such a subsequent automobile accident. Immer and Company, the employer, and American Motorist Insurance Company, the insurance carrier, have appealed.

The evidence, which is without conflict, shows that Brosnahan was employed by Immer and Company as a dry wall finisher. On January 23, 1965, Brosnahan reported to the job site in the Alexandria, Virginia, area where he was assigned to work. He was removing his tools from his kit when he inadvertently dropped his trowel. He instinctively grabbed for the tool to catch it before it struck the floor. In doing so, the sharp edge of the trowel slashed the palm of his right hand.

The employer was informed immediately of the accident and instructed Brosnahan to seek medical treatment from the nearest physician. The employee drove his personal automobile to the office of Dr. D. Rosa, located approximately two miles from the job site. The doctor administered a tetanus shot, took six stitches in the patient's hand, and instructed him to return at 10:30 a.m. on January 28 to have the stitches removed.

On January 28, Brosnahan reported for work, but later in the morning was authorized by the employer to go to the doctor to have the stitches removed from his hand. Brosnahan again drove his personal automobile. En route from the place of employment to the doctor's office, Brosnahan 'passed out' and crashed into a tree, causing the severe and disabling injuries which were the basis of the award of compensation now in dispute.

The evidence discloses that, unknown to the employer, Brosnahan [207 Va. 722] had been subject to occasional blackouts for a number of years prior to the accident on January 28, 1965. The blackouts, in Brosnahan's words, were caused by what the doctors termed 'a vascular malformation in my head.' Brosnahan further stated, 'These things just came on me, I received no warning.'

Brosnahan stated that although he 'had some trouble with (his) arm from the tetanus' he did not know 'whether that was a contributory factor or not.' He further stated that it was 'more than likely' that his blackout and the ensuing automobile accident were caused by his vascular condition. The doctor who treated him following the accident reported that Brosnahan 'had one of these seizures while driving his car and ran into a tree at high speed.'

While the question here presented has not come previously before this court, it has, with some frequency, required the attention of the courts of several of our sister states. The crucial inquiry in practically every such instance has been, just as it is here, whether the disputed injury arose out of and in the course of the employment. (Code, § 65--7.)

It appears that the courts have little difficulty in finding that an additional injury, suffered on a trip to or from a doctor's office for the treatment of a work-connected injury, arises 'in the course of the employment.' The struggle seems to be with determining whether such an additional

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injury 'arises out of the employment.' The eternal search in making the latter determination is to find the presence or absence of 'a causal connection' between the incidents of employment and the additional injuries.

The decisions of the courts which have come to grips with the problem have resulted in an irreconcilable split of authority. It may be safely stated, however, that the decided weight is in favor of allowing compensation in cases such as the one now before us.

Professor Larson, in his comprehensive and illuminating treatise on Workmen's Compensation Law, 1964 Ed., Vol. 1, § 13.13, p. 192.77, states:

'When an employee suffers additional injuries because of an accident in the course of a journey to a doctor's office occasioned by a compensable injury, the additional injuries are generally held compensable. If the journey takes place immediately after the first injury occurs, the chain of causation is most readily visible, as when an employee was being rushed to a hospital following a compensable injury and sustained further injury when [207 Va. 723] the ambulance was involved in a collision. But, quite apart from the element of immediacy, a fall or automobile accident during a trip to a doctor's office has usually been considered sufficiently causally related to the employment by the mere fact that a work-connected injury was the cause of the journey, without any necessity for showing that the first injury in some way contributed to the fall or accident. * * *'

The decisions relied upon by Larson to draw the foregoing conclusions persuade us to adopt those conclusions as our own. We will refer to only two such decisions because they display the compelling logic which requires the result that we affirm the decision of the Industrial Commission in this case.

In the first decision, Bettasso v. Snow-Hill Coal Corporation, 135 Ind.App. 396, 189 N.E.2d 833, Bettasso was injured by a severe electrical shock while working in a mine. He was placed in an ambulance which, while en route to a hospital, was involved in a collision with an automobile. Bettasso was thrown against the windshield of the ambulance, causing serious injuries to his knees.

The court held that the ambulance accident arose out of and in the course of Bettasso's employment. The court stated that the injuries suffered by Bettasso when he was thrown against the...

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56 cases
  • Dean v. Chrysler Corp.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • 3 Julio 1990
    ...when the ambulance was transporting him to the hospital for treatment of a work-related injury); Virginia: Immer & Co. v. Brosnahan, 207 Va. 720, 152 S.E.2d 254 (1967) (compensation was granted where an employee "blacked out" and crashed his automobile while on his way to have stitches remo......
  • Fijalkowski v. Wheeler
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • 12 Febrero 2019 to a risk to which a member of the public in his same position would not also have been exposed. See Immer & Co. v. Brosnahan , 207 Va. 720, 725, 152 S.E.2d 254 (1967). Thus, plaintiff's argument that the injury did not arise out of employment because the events would have unfolded ......
  • Bernard v. Carlson Companies–Tgif
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    • Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • 17 Julio 2012
    ...728 S.E.2d at 515, originated in the street-risk cases. See Lucas v. Lucas, 212 Va. 561, 186 S.E.2d 63 (1972); Immer & Co. v. Brosnahan, 207 Va. 720, 152 S.E.2d 254 (1967); Dreyfus v. Meade, 142 Va. 567, 129 S.E. 336 (1925).4 Extending the reasoning of those cases outside their unique conte......
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    ...(1992)). In keeping with this principle, the Supreme Court has adopted the doctrine of compensable consequences. Immer & Co. v. Brosnahan, 207 Va. 720, 152 S.E.2d 254 (1967). Under this doctrine, a covered employee who suffers a second injury that bears a sufficient "causal connection" to t......
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