Pennsylvania Court Addresses Exception To “Coming & Going” Rule

Traveling from home to work is typically not a circumstance in which employees are covered under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law. The “going and coming rule” holds that an injury or death sustained by an employee traveling to or from a place of employment does not occur in the course of employment, and is therefore not compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Pennsylvania Court Addresses Exception To "Coming & Going" RuleLutheran Senior Services Management Company v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Miller) involved an injured worker who had a serious motor vehicle accident while traveling to work. The injured worker was a salaried employee and the director of maintenance for a nursing home.  He often made special trips on his days off to address emergencies and other occurrences. The employer established the practice of providing “comp time” for him based on the time when he was paged to the time that he returned home.

On one occasion when this employee was ill, the employer called and reported that a security camera was malfunctioning and in need of repair. No other maintenance employee was available so this employee left for work and was then involved in a bad car accident.

The employee filed a workers’ compensation claim that was denied by the company’s insurance carrier. The Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) granted the worker’s claim based on the conclusion that “Claimant was sick on March 13, 2014, and except for the special need of the Employer to assure [that the] surveillance cameras became operative . . . Claimant would not have gone to work.” Thus, the court carved out an exception to the “going and coming rule.”

The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) affirmed the decision of the WCJ on appeal. However, it granted the claim on a different basis than the WCJ. The WCAB found that the facts of the case represented “special circumstances” more so than a “special mission,” and that, regardless of the underlying rationale, the facts represented an exception to the “coming and going rule,” and an award of workers’ comp benefits, in this case, was appropriate.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the decision after examining the nature of the “special circumstances” exception:

“We focus on the fourth exception, as that is the exception relied upon by the Board. ‘Special circumstances’ have rendered compensable an injury sustained during a commute where: (1) the employee is requested by the employer to come in; (2) the request is for the convenience of the employer or in furtherance of its business; and (3) the trip is not simply for the convenience of the employee . . . Further, the request by the employer can be direct or express, on the one hand, or implied, on the other, to qualify as a special request by the employer.”

The fact that the “comp time” policy applied to door-to-door travel demonstrates that it should be included and that such activity was not just a part of the employee’s normal work day. Workers compensation benefits were therefore properly awarded.

Since James Powell, Sr., founded Powell Law in 1906, our attorneys have represented all types of workers in workers’ compensation cases. Powell Law’s decades of experience make it the clear and obvious choice for representation in workers’ compensation matters in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE!


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