McLin v. Industrial Specialty Contractors, No. 2002-C-1539.

CourtSupreme Court of Louisiana
Writing for the CourtKNOLL, Justice.
Citation851 So.2d 1135
PartiesChad A. McLIN v. INDUSTRIAL SPECIALTY CONTRACTORS, INC., and CNA Insurance Companies.
Decision Date02 July 2003
Docket NumberNo. 2002-C-1539.

851 So.2d 1135

Chad A. McLIN
v.
INDUSTRIAL SPECIALTY CONTRACTORS, INC., and CNA Insurance Companies

No. 2002-C-1539.

Supreme Court of Louisiana.

July 2, 2003.

Rehearing Denied September 5, 2003.


851 So.2d 1138
Marcus M. Zimmerman, Counsel for Applicant

Kirk L. Landry, Baton Rouge, Aaron J. Chaisson, Jr., Counsel for Respondent.

KNOLL, Justice.

We granted this writ application to consider whether the hearing officer and the court of appeal erred in denying workers' compensation benefits to an employee for injuries sustained in an automobile accident while returning home from an employer mandated safety meeting. In particular, we wanted to consider whether the "special mission exception" to the general going-and-coming rule ceases to apply when an employee travels along his usual route to work while returning from the special mission. For reasons that follow, we find that once an employees engages in the performance of a special mission, an injury suffered en route from the employee's home to the location of the mission, or from the location of the mission to the employee's home, is considered to be within the course of employment, regardless of the route he travels. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the hearing officer and the court of appeal and hold that plaintiff is entitled to workers' compensation benefits for his injuries.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff, Chad McLin, was employed by Industrial Specialty Contractors, Inc. (ISC) and was assigned to perform work as an electrician at the BASF plant in Geismar, Louisiana. To get to work each day, McLin would leave his home and drive down Cedarcrest Avenue to Airline Highway. He would then travel down Airline Highway to its intersection with Siegen Lane, proceed from Siegen Lane to Interstate 10 East, and then follow Interstate 10 to Geismar and the BASF plant.

On February 17, 2000, McLin was required to attend a safety meeting at ISC's office on Highland Road in Baton Rouge from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. At around 5:00 p.m. on the day of the accident, McLin left his job site at BASF in his own automobile and attended the meeting. Although participating employees were not paid for the time spent at the meeting, they were provided

851 So.2d 1139
with dinner. McLin testified that after the meeting ended, he traveled back down Highland Road to Interstate 10 and headed directly toward his home along his usual route. However, when turning onto Airline Highway, he decided to take South Sherwood Forest to his house instead of Cedarcrest. McLin testified that he took this alternate route because it was later in the evening than when he usually traveled home, and as a result, the traffic had subsided. While on this alternate route, McLin was involved in an automobile accident at the intersection of South Sherwood Forest and Florida Boulevard, just blocks from his home. He suffered a ruptured lumbar disk and was not able to perform his pre-accident duties, resulting in ISC's termination of his employment. ISC believed the accident had not occurred during the course of McLin's employment and refused to pay workers' compensation benefits

On May 11, 2000, McLin filed a disputed claim for compensation with the Office of Workers' Compensation. He sought wage benefits and payment of medical bills from ISC. ISC and CNA Insurance Companies ("CNA") answered, denying that McLin was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of his injury. On January 24, 2001, a trial was held before a hearing officer. At the conclusion of the trial, the hearing officer found that McLin had not been in the course and scope of his employment when he was injured. Although she agreed that McLin had been on a "mission" for his employer in attending the mandatory safety meeting, she found such mission ended when he got back on Interstate 10 from Highland Road, because, at that point, he was traveling down his usual route home from the BASF plant.

On appeal, the First Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed, finding no manifest error in the decision. [McLin v. Industrial Specialty Contractors, Inc.] 818 So.2d 947 (La. App. 1 Cir. 5/10/02) (Carter, C.J., dissenting). We granted McLin's writ application to evaluate the correctness of the conclusion that he was not within the course of employment at the time of his accident. McLin v. Industrial Specialty Contractors, Inc., and CNA Insurance Companies, 02-C-1539 (La.10/14/02), 827 So.2d 409.

DISCUSSION

The well-recognized beneficial design of the Workers' Compensation Act is to set up a court-administered system to aid injured workmen by relatively informal and flexible proceedings. Rhodes v. Lewis, 01-1989 (La.5/14/02), 817 So.2d 64. The provisions of the workers' compensation law are to be interpreted liberally in favor of the worker in order to effectuate its purpose of relieving workers of the economic burden of work-connected injuries by diffusing the cost on channels of commerce. Lester v. Southern Cas. Ins., 466 So.2d 25 (La.1985). See also Coats v. American Tel. & Tel. Co., 95-2670 (La.10/25/96), 681 So.2d 1243; Harold v. La Belle Maison Apartments, 94-0889 (La.10/17/94), 643 So.2d 752. Nevertheless, despite such liberal construction, the worker bears the burden of proving personal injury by accident by a preponderance of the evidence. La. R.S. 23:1031; Nelson v. Roadway Express, Inc., 588 So.2d 350 (La.1991).

Under the Workers' Compensation Act, employers are responsible for compensation benefits to employees only when the injury results from an accident "arising out of and in the course of his employment." La. R.S. 23:1031; O'Regan v. Preferred Enterprises, Inc., 98-1602 (La.3/17/00), 758 So.2d 124; Mundy v. Department of Health and Human Resources, 593 So.2d 346 (La.1992). The requirement that an employee's injury occur

851 So.2d 1140
"in the course of" employment focuses on the time and place relationship between the injury and the employment. Weber v. State, 93-0062 (La.4/11/94), 635 So.2d 188; Williams v. Regional Transit Authority, 546 So.2d 150 (La.1989). An accident occurs in the course of employment when the employee sustains an injury while actively engaged in the performance of his duties during work hours, either on the employer's premises or at other places where employment activities take the employee. Mundy, 593 So.2d at 349. The requirement that an employee's injury "arise out of" the employment relates to the character or origin of the injury suffered by the employee and whether this injury was incidental to the employment. Williams, 546 So.2d at 161

Generally, injuries sustained by an employee while traveling to and from work are not considered to have occurred within the course and scope of his employment, and thus, are not compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act. Stephens v. Justiss-Mears Oil Co., 312 So.2d 293 (La. 1975); W. Malone & H. Johnson, 13 Louisiana Civil Law Treatise—Workers Compensation § 168 (4th ed.2002). This rule, often called the "going-and-coming rule," is premised on the theory that, ordinarily, the employment relationship is suspended from the time the employee leaves his work to go home until he resumes his work. Phipps v. Bruno Const., 00-0480 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/2/00), 773 So.2d 826 (citing Yates v. Naylor Industrial Services, Inc., 569 So.2d 616, 619 (La.App. 2 Cir.1990), writ denied, 572 So.2d 92 (La.1991)). Furthermore, an employee's place of residence is a personal decision not directly controlled by the employer, and treating commuting time as part of the determination of course and scope of employment would remove manageable boundaries from the determination. Orgeron ex rel. Orgeron v. McDonald, 93-1353 (La.7/5/94), 639 So.2d 224, 227.

The going-and-coming rule is, however, subject to various exceptions, only one of which has been asserted by McLin.1 McLin argues that the safety meeting on Highland Road was a "mission for his employer," and thus, his return home was within the course and scope of his employment.2 While this Court has

851 So.2d 1141
not had an opportunity to address the "special mission" exception, we note with significance that the exception has been applied in one form or another by the majority of state supreme courts. See 1 Arthur Larson & Lex K. Larson, Larson's Workers' Compensation Law § 14.05 (2002). The definition most often cited in the jurisprudence for the special mission (or "special errand") exception provides:
When an employee, having identifiable time and space limits on his employment, makes an off-premises journey which would normally not be covered under the usual going and coming rule, the journey may be brought within the course and scope of employment by the fact that the trouble and time of making the journey, or special inconvenience, hazard, or urgency of making it in the particular circumstances, is itself sufficiently substantial to be viewed as an integral part of the service itself.

1 Larson & Larson, supra, § 14.05.

A review of the cases addressing the special mission exception in the context of injuries sustained while traveling to or from...

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82 practice notes
  • Calvo v. Montgomery Cnty., No. 48, Sept. Term, 2017
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 21, 2018
    ...level of a special mission is supported by cases from other jurisdictions. See459 Md. 344 McLin v. Indus. Specialty Contractors, Inc. , 851 So.2d 1135, 1142 (La. 2003) (employee attending an off-site mandatory safety meeting after work hours); Edens v. New Mexico Health & Soc. Servs. Dep't ......
  • Davis v. Witt, No. 2002-C-3102
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Louisiana
    • July 2, 2003
    ...in part. I concur in the majority's finding that the state is not entitled to a new trial in that the evidence fully supports the jury 851 So.2d 1135 verdict in which it exonerated the State police from However, I dissent from the majority's conclusion that the Sheriff of St. Martin has no ......
  • Mudlin v. Hills Materials Co., No. 24339.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • November 14, 2007
    ...of penalties because insurer's denial based on going-and-coming rule was reasonable); McLin v. Indus. Specialty Contractors, Inc., 851 So.2d 1135, 1144 (La. 2003) (denying penalties for insurer's refusal to pay claim based on going-and-coming rule). In Complete Vending Services, the employe......
  • Gaines v. Home Care Solutions, LLC., No. 2015–CA–0895.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • April 6, 2016
    ...injuries by diffusing the costs on channels of commerce.” McLin v. Industrial Specialty Contractors, Inc., 02–1539, p. 3 (La.7/2/03), 851 So.2d 1135, 1139. “Nevertheless, despite such liberal construction, the worker bears the burden of proving the personal injury [resulting from a work acc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
82 cases
  • Calvo v. Montgomery Cnty., No. 48, Sept. Term, 2017
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • May 21, 2018
    ...level of a special mission is supported by cases from other jurisdictions. See459 Md. 344 McLin v. Indus. Specialty Contractors, Inc. , 851 So.2d 1135, 1142 (La. 2003) (employee attending an off-site mandatory safety meeting after work hours); Edens v. New Mexico Health & Soc. Servs. Dep't ......
  • Davis v. Witt, No. 2002-C-3102
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Louisiana
    • July 2, 2003
    ...in part. I concur in the majority's finding that the state is not entitled to a new trial in that the evidence fully supports the jury 851 So.2d 1135 verdict in which it exonerated the State police from However, I dissent from the majority's conclusion that the Sheriff of St. Martin has no ......
  • Mudlin v. Hills Materials Co., No. 24339.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • November 14, 2007
    ...of penalties because insurer's denial based on going-and-coming rule was reasonable); McLin v. Indus. Specialty Contractors, Inc., 851 So.2d 1135, 1144 (La. 2003) (denying penalties for insurer's refusal to pay claim based on going-and-coming rule). In Complete Vending Services, the employe......
  • Gaines v. Home Care Solutions, LLC., No. 2015–CA–0895.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Louisiana (US)
    • April 6, 2016
    ...injuries by diffusing the costs on channels of commerce.” McLin v. Industrial Specialty Contractors, Inc., 02–1539, p. 3 (La.7/2/03), 851 So.2d 1135, 1139. “Nevertheless, despite such liberal construction, the worker bears the burden of proving the personal injury [resulting from a work acc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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