Recently, the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeals determined that an employee was in the course and scope of her employment when she sustained injuries from a criminal assailant.
The employee, a home health caregiver, normally worked from 8 am until 5 pm. On the day of the incident, the employee accompanied a client to the hospital just as her shift was scheduled to end. The employee was instructed to remain at the hospital until the client was admitted or released. The client was admitted at 10:00 PM, and the employee exited to the parking lot to drive home. In the parking lot, the plaintiff was attacked by a criminal assailant, and sustained injuries.
In worker’s compensation court the employer denied worker’s compensation coverage based on the fact that the employee was not in the course and scope of her employment—arguing that the employee’s shift had ended at 5 pm; that she volunteered to accompany the client to the hospital; and also that once the client was admitted, the employee was “off the clock.”
To establish entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits, the employee must show that she sustained an injury by an accident arising out of and in the course of her employment. The principal criteria for determining course of employment are time, place, and activity.
The court strongly disagreed with the employer, holding that the employee was in the course and scope of her employment when attacked walking to her car. Even if an employee has finished her day’s work and is in the act of leaving, she is entitled to a reasonable period while still on the employer’s premises, or at other places where employment activities have taken the employee. The court stated that if it were not for the employer’s instructions the employee would not have been in that place at that time.
Now, this is an extreme example of a completely random third party causing an employee injury. However, it is important for all businesses to take note that employee injuries may fall in the course and scope of employment, even if the employee is doing tasks that are completely unrelated to her job. It is beneficial for employers to have handbooks or written policies outlining exact job descriptions, but also to understand that no matter how specific and narrow the job description is, the course and scope can always be altered due to some unforeseeable circumstance or random action.
Case citation: Maxwell v. Care Solutions Inc., (La. App. 2 Cir 9/30/2015)
Allen & Gooch is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.