BOISE, Idaho (Legal Newsline) – A salesman injured on his way to work is owed reasonable medical benefits, the Supreme Court of Idaho determined, affirming the ruling from the Industrial Commission on Jan. 29.
"The Commission found that an exception to the 'going and coming' rule applied based on (defendant) 2M’s intent to compensate (claimant Matthew) Atkinson for his travel time while going to or coming from work. 2M and its surety, Employer Assurance Co., timely appealed. We affirm on different grounds," the opinion states.
Justice G. Richard Bevan authored the opinion and justices Roger Burdick, Robyn Brody, John Stegner and Joel Horton concurred.
2M filed the appeal with the Supreme Court after the Commission decided Atkinson was indeed owed medical benefits after he was struck by another vehicle while scraping the frost from his windshield on the side of the road while traveling to work. The accident occurred in March 2017.
The high court looked at three different issues: whether the Commission used the proper legal standards to decide that the accident happened while Atkinson was employed with 2M, whether the Commission failed to find evidence on if his employment played a factor in the accident and if Atkinson is owed attorney fees on appeal.
The Supreme Court first decided that the Commission did use the right legal standards when it ruled Atkinson’s accident happened during his time at 2M.
The “the going and coming” rule claims a worker isn’t actually at work when they are traveling to and from the location. However, the Supreme Court found that the Commission erred when it applied Hansen v. Estate of Harvey
“We see the more appropriate focus to be whether the vehicle was incidental to Atkinson’s duties of employment, or whether it was mandatory as part of his job,” the Supreme Court said.
“2M not only authorized but required Atkinson to drive the company pickup truck to and from 2M’s office to ensure he could provide ‘legendary service’ to 2M’s customers. Applying the principles set forth in Hansen, and construing them liberally 'in order to ensure certain recovery for injured workers, regardless of fault,' 2M extended the risks of Atkinson’s employment to include transportation, and the course of employment was extended to match."
Considering this, Atkinson was within his scope of employment during the time of the accident.
The court also determined the second question was satisfied as there was a causal connection from him going to work and being hit by another car on his way to work.
The Supreme Court declined to award Atkinson attorney fees since it ultimately agreed with 2M’s argument on the "speculative nature" behind the Commission’s decision.