McKiernan v. City of New Haven

Citation199 A.2d 695,151 Conn. 496
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Decision Date31 March 1964
PartiesJohn H. McKIERNAN v. CITY OF NEW HAVEN. Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut

John J. Kinney, Jr., New Haven, for the appellant (plaintiff).

Joseph E. Bove, New Haven, with whom, on the brief, was A. Frederick Mignone, New Haven, for the appellee (defendant).

Before KING, C. J., and MURPHY, ALCORN and COMLEY, JJ., and HOUSE, Superior Court Judge.

KING, Chief Justice.

On April 13, 1962, and for a long time prior thereto, the claimant had been a patrolman in the New Haven police department assigned to the signal repair unit. The accordance with a general order given him when he was first so assigned, he normally reported for work at station 2 at 8 o'clock in the morning, and his working day normally terminated at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Between those hours he would be assigned by his superior officer to perform such duties as were required. These duties might necessitate his presence in any part of New Haven or at the signal repair department at station 2. Although his normal working hours were from 8 a. m. to 4 p. m., the claimant was subject to being called to duty at any time of the day or night if the chief of police so ordered. For failure to comply with such an order, or with the general order to appear at station 2 at 8 o'clock in the morning, he would be subject to disciplinary action.

On April 13, 1962, the claimant was driving in his own car from his home, in Woodbridge, to station 2, in New Haven, to report for work at 8 o'clock that morning. He had chosen to follow, and was in fact following, a direct route from his home to the station. A few minutes before 8 o'clock, when he had reached a point within the New Haven city limits, his car was involved in an accident. For injuries sustained in that accident he claims compensation. There is no claim that he was doing anything connected with, or in furtherance of, his employment at the time of the accident, except the mere fact that he was on his way to station 2 and had to report for duty there at 8 o'clock in the morning. The commissioner found that the injury arose in the course of, and out of, the claimant's employment and awarded compensation, largely because of the commissioner's reliance on our decision in Lake v. City of Bridgeport, 102 Conn. 337, 345, 128 A. 782. The commissioner and, on appeal by the defendant, the Superior Court, made certain corrections of the finding in the nature of clarifications, none of which was material to this appeal. The Superior Court sustained the appeal. The effect of this was to vacate the award, and from this action the claimant appealed to this court. The sole question presented is whether on the subordinate facts the commissioner could legally conclude that the injury sustained in the motor vehicle accident on the public highway in New Haven arose in the course of, and out of, the claimant's employment as a patrolman. The burden of proving each of these two essential elements of a right to an award of compensation rested on the claimant. Cordon v. United Aircraft Corporation, 150 Conn. 328, 329, 189 A.2d 384. Unless the collision occurred in the course of the claimant's employment, it could not have arisen out of it, nor could it be compensable. Whitney v. Hazard Lead Works, 105 Conn. 512, 516, 136 A. 105; Herbst v. Hat Corporation of America, 130 Conn. 1, 6, 31 A.2d 329.

The claimant correctly recognizes that an injury sustained on a public highway while going to or from work is ordinarily not compensable. A principal reason for this rule is that employment ordinarily does not commence until the claimant has reached the employer's premises, and consequently an injury sustained prior to that time would ordinarily not occur in the course of the employment so as to be compensable. Furthermore, in cases falling within the ordinary rule, the employee's means of transportation, as well as his route, are entirely within his discretion, unfettered by any control or power of control on the part of the employer. Lake v. City of Bridgeport, supra, 102 Conn. 342, 128 A. 782; Whitney v. Hazard Lead Works, supra, 105 Conn. 518, 136 A. 105; DeRosa v. Levering & Garrigues Co., 111 Conn. 655, 659, 151 A. 246. The exceptions to the ordinary rule, four of which are pointed out in the Lake case on page 343 of 102 Conn., 128 A. 782, arise in situation where the contract of employment itself involves, in its actual performance, or as an incident annexed to it with the knowledge and consent of the employer, the use of the public highways. The importance of the element of benefit to the employer, whether or not there is also benefit to the employee, is illustrated in cases such as Ohmen v. Adams Bros., 109 Conn. 378, 385, 146 A. 825; Davis v. Goldie Motors, Inc., 129 Conn. 240, 243, 27 A.2d 164; and Herbst v. Hat Corporation of America, supra. Among the many cases involving applications of the general rule, and its exceptions, in addition to those cited in the Lake case, perhaps the most helpful here are Whitney v. Hazard Lead Works, supra; Taylor v. M. A. Gammino Construction Co., 127 Conn. 528, 530, 18 A.2d 400; Kuharski v. Bristol Brass Corporation, 132 Conn. 563, 566, 46 A.2d 11; Katz v. Katz, 137 Conn. 134, 138, 75 A.2d 57; and Hughes v. American Brass Co., 141 Conn. 231, 234, 104 A.2d 896.

The main claim of the claimant is that the present case is directly controlled by Lake v. City of Bridgeport, supra, 102 Conn. 345, 128 A. 782. In that case, a policeman was struck by an automobile while he was on his way, pursuant to orders, to report for duty at a police precinct. He was required to report at this precinct, which was the one nearest to a theater to which he had been assigned as a special policeman, immediately before, and immediately after, his tour of duty at the theater. It was held that the policeman's injury occurred in the course of his employment because, while obeying the general order to report to the precinct, 'the c...

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18 cases
  • Dombach v. Olkon Corp.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 6 Junio 1972
    ...employment, for the joint benefit of himself and his employer, with the knowledge and approval of the employer. See McKiernan v. New Haven, 151 Conn. 496, 498, 199 A.2d 695. In the case at bar, the commissioner found that travel on the highway was an important element of the plaintiff's emp......
  • Labadie v. NORWALK REHABILITATION SERVICES, 17264.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 5 Julio 2005
    ...or as an incident annexed to it with the knowledge and consent of the employer, the use of the public highways." McKiernan v. New Haven, 151 Conn. 496, 499, 199 A.2d 695 (1964). "It is well-settled law that traveling men are generally within the course of their employment from the time they......
  • Wolland v. Industrial Commission, 54969
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 16 Abril 1982
    ...Insurance Fund v. Workmen's Compensation Appeals Board (1973), 29 Cal.App.3d 902, 106 Cal.Rptr. 39; McKiernan v. City of New Haven (1964), 151 Conn. 496, 199 A.2d 695; Simerlink v. Young (1961), 172 Ohio St. 427, 178 N.E.2d 168; Blackley v. City of Niagara Falls (1954), 248 App.Div. 51, 130......
  • Spatafore v. Yale University
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 3 Diciembre 1996
    ...injured." 1 A. Larson & L. Larson, Workmen's Compensation (1996) § 15.51, pp. 4-158 through 4-162; see also McKiernan v. New Haven, 151 Conn. 496, 498-99, 199 A.2d 695 (1964) ("[a] principal reason for this rule is that employment ordinarily does not commence until the claimant has reached ......
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