Workers Compensation

Author: Yana St. Clair, Esq.

Workers Compensation

As we mentioned earlier, to recover under Workers Compensation, the injury to the employee must both:

  • Occur in the course of
    AND
  • Arise out of the worker’s employment (Mallor et all., 2008, p. 1253)

Further, it has to be noted that the term “in the course of employment” should strictly relate to all circumstances of the sustained injuries and should encompass ‘time, place, etc’. In addition, the term “arise out of employment” stresses on the connection between the injury and the risk incident to employment.

In the Darco Transportation v. Dulen (922 P.2d 591 (Okla. Sup. Ct. 1996) - a tragic, however rather bizarre case, the above mentioned elements can be observed and explained.

Dulen, the claimant, who was at the time of the occurrence employed as a driver by Darco Transportation, sustained injuries, and killed a co-driver while on-route to San Francisco transporting goods. Dulen sought WC benefits for his on-the-job injuries, and the lower courts of Oklahoma ruled in his favor.
The accident occurred at a railroad crossing, where Dulen has stopped the tractor-trailer he drove at the time behind another truck. The signal arm at the railroad malfunctioned and came up before the train had reached the intersection.

At first glance this looked like a simple and straightforward case, if it wasn’t for one detail - the claimant's conduct at the time of the collision.
The traffic investigator of the scene noticed certain details that led to the conclusion that at the time of the incident, Dulen and his female co-driver were having sex.

On this ground the employer, Darco Transportation appealed to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma resorting to the defense that the claimant had abandoned his superior’s business, and thus all necessary elements of a compensable injury were not at place.

After looking at all the facts, the trial court sustained the previous rulings, and Dulen was able to recover.

The higher court ruled that:
1. Although engaged in negligence, or forbidden behavior at work, since Dulen maintained his position behind the wheel, he did not abandon his daily job and kept occupying his assigned work station
Further,
2. The injury was considered compensable because it arouse out of the claimant’s employment and was caused by the risk which was considered directly related to his work

It was found that not Dulen’s inappropriate conduct at work (purportedly having sex), but the road equipment failure was the actual cause of the claimant’s injuries. It was further alleged, that the train’s signal arm is a part of the cross-country highway system, where Dulen’s presence as a transporter of goods, was mandatory.

At the time of the incident, the claimant had an assignment to transport goods to San Francisco, and besides his negligent conduct, since he was at the steering wheel, he did not “abandon” his work station.

Thus, it was ruled that Dulen’s injuries arose out of his work, and are compensable under the Workers Compensation system.

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