A recent decision by the Appeals Court of Massachusetts in In re Kelbe’s Case, Mass. Appeals Court (2014), offers a fairly comprehensive overview of the concept of the “Going and Coming Rule” in workers’ compensation cases, which precludes financial recovery in employee personal injury cases.
The opinion began with a review of the general rule that workers’ compensation is not generally available to compensate employees who are injured during the course of travel to and from work. As stated in a landmark case on the matter, Chernick’s Case, 286 Mass. 168, 172 (1934), ” It is now elementary that the compensation act does not extend to cover employees going to and coming from their work[.]”
There are some exceptions to this rule, which include:
- When the vehicle the employee was riding in at the time of the accident was furnished by the employer, for the employee’s commute;
- When the employee’s regular duties involved traveling away from the employer’s premises; and
- When, as the accident occurred, the employee was returning home from having attended an off-site, work-related meeting for the employer.
Additionally, as a general matter, injuries that occur on the employer’s premises, or within areas where the employer controls the right of passage (e.g., stairs or a parking lot), are also compensable. However, injuries that occur after the employee is no longer within the scope of his or her employment after leaving the premises of the employer are not.
In this case, the employee admitted that he had signed out of work and was on his way home when the accident occurred. However, he argued that his employer, MIT, exercised control over the street on which he traveled, since it owned buildings on each side of the street, and it typically cleared the snow there during the winter months. He further argued that, since the MIT campus police patrolled there and were first responders at the time of his accident, this further supported the argument that they were in control of the premises.
The administrative judge who initially ruled on the matter found that the employee’s travel route home did not require the employee to be on that particular street, but rather that his own independent actions, in parking his scooter there, were the reason that he traveled that route on the day of the accident. Additionally, the judge found that any snow plowing by MIT on the street was completely voluntary, since the city of Cambridge was responsible for the plowing, and it also enforced traffic and parking laws on the street at issue. While MIT police were the first responders following the incident, the Cambridge police assumed the investigation. Therefore, the judge found that the employee failed to establish that his injury occurred on his employer’s premises, or that there was a basis for an exception to the going and coming rule. Therefore, he was denied workers’ compensation benefits.
The Appeals Court of Massachusetts found that the judge’s decision was well supported by the evidentiary record, and it was not arbitrary or capricious, nor based on an error of law. Therefore, the decision was affirmed, denying the employee his workers’ compensation claim for the accident that occurred while he was on his way from work to his home.
If you have suffered a work-related injury in Massachusetts, you may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. At the law firm of Pulgini & Norton, our Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers offer comprehensive guidance and representation in these matters. Call our office today at (781) 843-2200, or you can contact us online in order to schedule an initial consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Massachusetts Signs Workers’ Compensation Misclassification Initiative, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published January 29, 2015
The Importance of Understanding the Exclusivity of Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog, published January 22, 201