Schroeder v. Industrial Com'n of Arizona

Citation132 Ariz. 455,646 P.2d 886
Decision Date06 April 1982
Docket NumberNo. 1,CA-IC,1
PartiesJack SCHROEDER, Petitioner, v. The INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION OF ARIZONA, Respondent, H & H Seed Company, Inc., Respondent Employer, Twin City Fire Insurance Company, Respondent Carrier. 2641.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Arizona
Harlan Heilman, Yuma, for petitioner
OPINION

CONTRERAS, Judge.

In this special action review of an Industrial Commission award, the sole issue is whether petitioner employee's injury arose in the course of his employment. The administrative law judge concluded that it did not and issued an award for a noncompensable claim. We set aside the award.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner employee (hereafter claimant), a laborer for respondent employer, was injured when a forklift on which he was riding double tipped over and pinned him to the ground. His claim for workmen's compensation was denied by the respondent carrier. He timely requested a hearing before the Commission to protest this denial.

At the hearing, claimant testified that he had worked for the respondent employer for approximately two weeks before the accident. Although there was a conflict in the testimony regarding the employer's policy relating to riding double on forklifts, the administrative law judge found that the employer had an oral policy prohibiting such practice, that claimant knew or should have known of this policy, and that it was uniformly enforced.

The evidence showed that claimant and a co-employee were sweeping up seed, bagging it, and stacking pallets of these bags of seed. The co-employee was using a forklift to move and stack these pallets. After completing this job, claimant proceeded, in accordance with his foreman's instructions, to another building on the employer's premises located approximately 100 yards away. Instead of walking, he rode double on the forklift driven by the co-employee, who was going in the same direction. He conceded that it was unnecessary to ride on the forklift. He could not explain why the forklift tipped over, and respondents have not contended that riding double caused the accident.

The uncontroverted testimony of the co-employee substantially corroborated claimant's account of the circumstances preceding this accident. In addition, he testified that he took the forklift to the other job location because it was needed there. He testified that the accident occurred when the brakes locked as he was rounding a blind corner.

Neither the supervisor nor the foreman observed the accident when it occurred. At the first hearing, the foreman admitted that claimant was performing his assigned task prior to the accident, that he was enroute to his next job when the accident occurred, and that the forklift was needed to perform the next task. In an interview with an investigator, however, he stated, without factual detail, that the co-employee and claimant were "racing" and "goofing off" on the forklift. Prior to hearing, an unsigned transcript of this interview was filed with the Industrial Commission and is of record. The foreman was not examined with respect to this transcript. It is clear from the evidence that the foreman's observations were limited to what he saw after the accident took place.

The administrative law judge's award was for a noncompensable claim. To support this award, he made the following findings. First, he found that when the accident occurred, claimant was "engaged in an activity which could be described as 'horseplay' with ... a co-employee, which consisted of (the co-employee) operating the forklift truck and applicant riding thereon as a passenger...." Second, he found that the employer had a policy prohibiting riding double on forklifts and that claimant and the co-employee knew of this policy. Third, he concluded that "the evidence established that applicant's activities were of such a magnitude to carry him beyond the course of his employment and remove him from the penumbra of workmen's compensation coverage...." (citations omitted).

After exhausting his remedies before the Commission, claimant sought further review in this court.

HORSEPLAY

On appeal, claimant contends that the administrative law judge mistakenly applied to this case the rule concerning horseplay, rather than the rule concerning employee misconduct. He further asserts that if properly analyzed, his claim is compensable. Respondents, apparently recognizing that there is no evidence to support the administrative law judge's reliance on the rule concerning horseplay, make no attempt to defend the award on that basis. We agree that horseplay is not involved.

Claimant's conduct in this case does not involve the substantial, purely personal deviation from the course of his employment with "no conceivable benefit" to the employer, such as was involved in Anderson Clayton & Co. v. Industrial Commission, 125 Ariz. 39, 607 P.2d 22 (App.1979). 1 Here, claimant was on the job, not whiling away a slack period. He was following his foreman's instructions on an authorized route when he should have been there. He was using a vehicle customarily used in the employer's business, not one brought to the workplace by the employee for his own recreation. His conduct benefitted his employer by getting him from one work area to another, despite the unauthorized method of accomplishing the assigned task. This activity did not constitute horseplay. Accordingly, any rule concerning horseplay was not applicable.

EMPLOYEE MISCONDUCT

As indicated above, respondents have not attempted to support the award on the basis of the administrative law judge's "horseplay" findings. Rather, they contend that he correctly applied general "course of employment" principles and, in particular, the rule concerning employee misconduct.

In Arizona, the effect of employee misconduct on compensability depends upon the rule violated. Generally, if the rule limits the ultimate work to be performed, the act prohibited by the rule is outside the course of employment. If, however, the rule merely limits the method of accomplishing the authorized work, then ordinarily the prohibited act is within the course of employment. See Goodyear Aircraft Corp. v. Gilbert, 65 Ariz. 379, 181 P.2d 624 (1947). Accord, 1A A. Larson, Workmen's Compensation Law, § 31.00 (1979).

Although this distinction between ultimate work and method of accomplishing that work is easy to verbalize, it often is difficult to apply. Professor Larson warns that a

tricky feature of this distinction is that it can, by a play upon words, be converted into a contradiction of itself. For example, it seems clear enough that if claimant's main job is to lift flour sacks, the raising of the flour sacks is the "thing" for which he is employed. If, in violation of instruction, he rigs up a rope hoist to do the job, it should be clear enough that his departure is merely from the method prescribed. Yet the argument will sometimes be seen that the violation is one of a rule limiting the "thing," because the "thing" for which claimant is employed is "to lift flour sacks by hand and not by hoist." Of course,...

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4 cases
  • Jaimes v. Industrial Com'n of Arizona
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • February 27, 1990
    ... ... McCarthy, 295 N.Y. 443, 68 N.E.2d 434 (N.Y.1946)) ...         The second case cited by claimant is Schroeder v. Industrial Comm'n, 132 Ariz. 455, 646 P.2d 886 (App.1982). Schroeder similarly does not establish the limits of compensable horseplay. The ... ...
  • Burnett for Burnett v. Industrial Com'n of Arizona, 1
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • July 26, 1988
    ... ... Indeed, misconduct is relevant only if there is a causal connection between it and the injury. See, e.g., Schroeder v. Industrial Comm'n, 132 Ariz. 455, 646 P.2d 886 (App.1982) (compensable claim despite misconduct resulting in injury); City Products Corp. v ... ...
  • Scheller v. Industrial Com'n of Arizona
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • December 23, 1982
    ... ... Goodyear Aircraft Corp. v. Gilbert, 65 Ariz. 379, 181 P.2d 624 (1947); Schroeder v. Industrial Commission, 132 Ariz. 455, 646 P.2d 886 (App.1982). We must determine whether the two distinct sets of express instructions in the ... ...
  • Bechtel Power Corp. v. Industrial Com'n of Arizona
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • January 5, 1984
    ... ... See Schroeder v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, 132 Ariz. 455, 646 P.2d 886 (App.1982) ...         A different rule applies to incidental activity ... ...

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