Tucker v. Die-Matic Tool Co., Inc., DIE-MATIC

Decision Date04 November 1994
Docket NumberDIE-MATIC
Citation652 So.2d 263
PartiesSusan TUCKER v.TOOL COMPANY, INC. AV93000776.
CourtAlabama Court of Civil Appeals

Jerry L. Batts of Sherrill, Batts & Mathews, Athens, for appellant.

Thomas R. Robinson of Lanier, Ford, Shaver & Payne, P.C., Huntsville, for appellee.

ROBERTSON, Presiding Judge.

On October 27, 1993, Susan Tucker, the widow of Ernest Allen Tucker, filed a complaint against Die-Matic Tool Company, Inc. (Die-Matic), in the Madison County Circuit Court, seeking compensation benefits pursuant to § 25-5-60, Ala.Code 1975, for her husband's death in a traffic accident on March 3, 1993. 1 She alleged that the accident had occurred while Mr. Tucker was working in the line and scope of his employment with Die-Matic and that it caused him to suffer fatal injuries arising out of and in course of his employment.

On November 19, 1993, Die-Matic answered, denying that Mr. Tucker's death had been caused by an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment.

On February 4, 1994, Die-Matic moved for a summary judgment, arguing that Mr. Tucker's death had resulted from injuries he had sustained in a traffic accident on March 3, 1993, as he drove home after completing his work at Die-Matic for the day. In support of its motion for summary judgment, Die-Matic attached the affidavit of its president, James D. Gaston.

On April 11, 1994, Mrs. Tucker filed a motion in opposition to Die-Matic's motion for summary judgment, alleging that at the time of his fatal injury, Mr. Tucker had been delivering parts to Specialty Heat Treating, Inc. (Specialty), for Die-Matic. She supported this allegation with the depositions of Mike Adams and Stanley Harbin, employees of Specialty; her own affidavit; and the affidavit of Ralph E. Hatcher, an investigator for the Huntsville Police Department.

Following a hearing, the trial court, on May 18, 1994, granted Die-Matic's motion for summary judgment. The trial court's order stated, in pertinent part:

"[T]he Court finds it to be undisputed that the deceased employee, Ernest Tucker, was traveling from his employment to his home at the time of the accident [that] took his life. It is well settled in this state that accidents which occur while [an] employee is traveling to and from work do not arise out of and in the course of his employment.

"In this case, [Mrs. Tucker] contends that an exception to this general rule applies in this case based on the plaintiff's claim that Earnest Tucker was delivering parts for [Die-Matic] as a part of his travel home from work.

"This exception was recognized in the case of Patterson v. Whitten, 57 Ala.App. 297, (1976), wherein the Court upheld the widow's claim for death benefits under the Workmen's Compensation Act where her husband was killed in an automobile accident while driving his employer's automobile traveling home from work. In that case, the Court found that the employer had instructed the employee to take a specific route home in delivering the automobile and further found that '... the fact that the employee was so instructed to be determinative here.'

"In the instant case, the evidence is undisputed that the employer did not instruct Earnest Tucker to deliver any parts on his way home; that Earnest Tucker volunteered to deliver the parts on his way home; that a delivery truck would have picked up the parts the next day; and that this delivery was not a normal duty or responsibility of Earnest Tucker's employment.

"Accordingly, this Court concludes that the accident which took the life of Earnest Tucker was not an accident which arose out of and in the course of his employment and is not compensable under the Workmen's Compensation Act of Alabama."

(Emphasis in original.) The trial court entered the summary judgment. On June 7, 1994, Mrs. Tucker moved to set aside the summary judgment. The trial court denied her motion on the next day.

Mrs. Tucker appeals, contending that the trial court erred in entering the summary judgment against her. She argues that Mr. Tucker's injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment, because, she says, he was "engaged in some duty to his employer in connection with his employment" at the time he was fatally injured.

An appellate court reviewing a summary judgment employs the same standard utilized by the trial court. Southern Guar. Ins. Co. v. First Alabama Bank, 540 So.2d 732 (Ala.1989). A summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Rule 56(c)(3), Ala.R.Civ.P. Further, the moving party bears the burden of proof. Jones v. Newton, 454 So.2d 1345 (Ala.1984). Like the trial court, the appellate court views the evidence and resolves all reasonable doubts in favor of the nonmovant. Specialty Container Mfg., Inc. v. Rusken Packaging, Inc., 572 So.2d 403 (Ala.1990).

Pursuant to § 25-5-1, Ala.Code 1975, an employee's injuries are compensable if his accident arose out of and in the course of employment. Generally, accidents that occur while an employee is traveling to and from work are not compensable because they fail to meet the "arising out of and in the course of employment" requirement. Sun Papers, Inc. v. Jerrell, 411 So.2d 790 (Ala.Civ.App.1981). Here, it is clear that the accident occurred while Mr. Tucker was traveling from work.

However, there are exceptions to that general rule. For example, in situations where the employer furnishes the employee's transportation, or reimburses him for his travel expenses, the accident may be deemed to have arisen out of and in the course of employment. Worthington v. Moore Elec. Co., 563 So.2d 617 (Ala.Civ.App.1990).

Another exception to the general rule occurs when "an employee during his travel to and from work is engaged in some duty for his employer which is in furtherance of the employer's business." Partin v. Alabama Power Co., 615 So.2d 616, 617 (Ala.Civ.App.1992) (quoting Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. v. Smallwood, 516 So.2d 716, 718 (Ala.Civ.App.1987)). This exception, also known as the "dual capacity" or "dual purpose" exception, applies whenever an employee's travel benefits both the employee and the employer, " 'if the trip involves performance of a...

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