Going-and-coming rule did not bar workers’ compensation claim

In Williams v. Petromark Drilling, LLC, an appeals court ruling deciding that a worker was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits after he was injured while riding home from his workplace was reversed by the Supreme Court of Kansas. The Supreme Court determined that an award of workers' compensation benefits was not barred under the "going and coming" rule where travel to distant locations was an integral requirement of the claimant's employment.

Background and procedural history

The claimant, an oil field worker for an oil drilling company, was traveling home after working the day shift at a remote drill site approximately 60 miles from his residence. He was riding as a passenger in a coworker's car when a rear tire on the vehicle had a blowout. The car rolled over several times and the claimant was ejected from the vehicle and injured.

An administrative law judge determined that the claimant was ineligible for workers' compensation benefits because the accident did not occur in the course of the claimant's employment.

The Workers Compensation Board reversed, in a split decision, and entered an award for the claimant, finding that, because nature of the claimant's work necessitated travel to ever-changing drill site locations, the accident arose out of the nature, conditions, obligations and incidents of his employment.

The Board's decision was reversed on appeal and it was decided that the claim was barred under the "going and coming" rule under the Kansas Statutes.

Under the "coming and going" rule an injury is not compensable and is not considered to have arisen out of and in the course of employment if the accident occurs while the employee is travelling between home and work, either on the way to work, or after leaving work.

The decision by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. To decide whether an employee's accident resulted from his or her employment is a question to be determined from the facts of the case. The Court of Appeals correctly stated that the facts in this case were undisputed. It should have then examined the evidence to determine whether the evidence sufficiently supported the Board's factual finding. Instead, the Court of Appeals crossed a line when it determined that those facts established, as a matter of law, that the claim was barred by the going-and-coming rule.

The evidence before the Board supported its finding that the tire blowout happened during, and within the scope, of the claimant's employment. As a member of an oil drilling crew, the claimant's job required him to travel to ever-changing remote drilling sites. The claimant's supervisor testified that the claimant would lose his job if he was unwilling to travel to the drilling sites.

Transportation was available to crew members to ride with a supervisor to and from the drill sites in the supervisor's personal vehicle, but the employer gave its employees the option to choose their own method of travel to and from the worksite, the Supreme Court said.

The Supreme Court ordered the Board's award of benefits to the claimant reinstated.

Contact an attorney

Individuals who have sustained a work-related injury or a medical condition as a result of an occupational disease are urged to immediately seek the assistance of a competent attorney experienced in workers' compensation matters to ensure that their rights are protected.