Worker injured on break entitled to workers comp benefits: Court
January 9, 2012 - 12:22pm
ALBANY, N.Y.—A car salesperson injured while driving to retrieve spaghetti dinners on a break is entitled to workers compensation benefits, a New York appellate court ruled Thursday.
The claimant in Richard Potter Jr. vs. Paolozzi Imports Inc. suffered an injury while driving his personal car after receiving a supervisor's permission to leave work briefly.
Mr. Potter was returning to his worksite after retrieving two spaghetti dinners when the accident occurred, court records show. A finance manager where he worked had purchased the dinners as part of a fundraiser sponsored by a football team that Mr. Potter helped run on a voluntary basis.
No interruption of employment
A workers comp judge found that Mr. Potter's injuries arose from his employment and awarded him benefits. In October 2010, a workers comp board affirmed the judge’s finding, and Paolozzi Imports appealed.
But the 3rd Judicial Department of the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division agreed with the workers comp board.
The appellate court cited case law finding that short breaks are so closely related to job performance that they do not constitute an interruption of employment, and another finding that benefits are awarded on the theory of an employer’s control of the employee during off-premises activity.
In this case, the appellate court said it found substantial evidence supporting the board's determination that claimant's short break did not constitute an interruption of employment.
Come on, admit it -- you used to sing "On Top of Spaghetti" when you were a kid. It was funny. What isn't so funny is what happened to this New Yorker who was driving back to the office after spending his break time picking up a couple of dinners for a colleague.
It's an interesting illustration of how the question of whether an injury arises out someone's employment can be very unclear. Those of you who suffered through sat in riveted attention to the Workers' Compensation class I taught around the state last year know that this was a point of discussion in the course.
By coincidence, the appellate court that decided this case is the same one that will hear IIABNY's appeal of the Regulation 194 lawsuit tomorrow. We're all about the Third Department these days. The complete text of this decision is on the court's Web site.
I'm curious as to what you all think of this ruling. Fair and sensible, or unjustifiable and biased? Do you best in the comments.