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"Special Mission" doctrine used to get injured worker compensation

Posted on Sep 23, 2014

The Workers' Compensation Appeal Board has ruled that injured workers that are injured while on a "special mission" are not outside the course and scope of their employment and are entitled to benefits after filing a workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania. At least that’s the case with one Pennsylvnania state worker's compensation claim.

On September 19, 2012, Susan Hoffner, fractured her right ankle and left foot when she fell while crossing the street.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Mrs. Hoffner's employer) issued a Notice of Compensation Denial alleging that the injury was neither within the course and scope of Mrs. Hoffner's employment nor work related  Attorney Francis J. Lafferty, IV, of the law firm Norfleet and Lafferty, LLC., filed a Claim Petition on behalf of Mrs. Hoffner.  Following hearings and testimony, Workers Compensation Judge David Cicola granted both wage loss and medical benefits to Mrs. Hoffner for her injuries.  Judge Cicola found that Mrs. Hoffner was indeed acting in the course and scope of her employment, as she was on a "special mission" of employment when she sustained her injuries. 

Mrs. Hoffner's employer appealed to the Workers Compensation Appeal Board arguing that the WCJ erred in finding that the injury occurred within the course and scope of Mrs. Hoffner's employment.  The WCAB, however, agreed with the Claimant's position that she was engaged in a "special mission" and affirmed the award of wage loss and medical benefits to Mrs. Hoffner. 

The Appeal Board decision held that Mrs. Hoffner was expressly directed to collect money for the purchase of doughnuts and implicitly instructed to pick up the doughnuts.  She then picked up the doughnuts prior to her regularly scheduled shift and after dropping them off at the office, moved her car to the parking garage.  It was on her return from the garage when she sustained her injury.

The WCAB concluded that the responsibility associated with preparing for a conference was a "special mission" and that her inconsequesntial departure to move her car in the midst of these preparations did not remove her from the course and scope of her employment. The Commonwealth also argued that "if" Mrs. Hoffner were on a "special mission" that the mission concluded when she parked her care in the garage and thus, she was not entitled to benefits under the "coming and going rule."  The Appeal Board rejected this position and upheld the Judge's decision.  No further appeal was taken.

 

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