Arising out of Employment Simplified: Atkins v. Webcon
On Friday, June 8, 2018, the Kansas Supreme Court decided Atkins v. Webcon and signaled an important change for determining whether accidents that occur while workers are out of town for employment-related purposes are compensable.
The relevant facts of the case are that the claimant and others were required to travel and stay in Enid, Oklahoma on a construction project. They took a company vehicle and their accommodations were provided by the employer. The hotel in which claimant and other co-workers were staying, though, was without a hotel bar. Claimant ventured across the street and went to a hotel that did have a hotel bar. He stayed until past two in the morning before attempting to cross the street to his hotel. Unfortunately, he was struck by a car driven by an intoxicated driver and sustained severe injuries.
On a preliminary basis, the ALJ and Workers Compensation Appeals Board found in favor of compensability. After the facts were fully presented at the regular hearing, the ALJ found in favor of compensability, but the Appeals Board, on review, reversed, determining that claimant’s accident was not compensable. Claimant appealed that determination to the Kansas Court of Appeals, which affirmed the denial of benefits. Claimant sought review to the Kansas Supreme Court and it granted review and determined that claimant’s accidental injury did not occur in the course of his employment.
The Kansas Supreme Court stated that it would decline claimant’s invitation to shoehorn the facts of this case into the confusing morass of rules and exceptions having to do with the going and coming rule and travel that is inherent to the employment. The Kansas Supreme Court viewed the case as an easy determination that claimant’s actions, in crossing the street after drinking at a bar until nearly 2:30 a.m. provided no benefit whatsoever to his employer. As such, the conduct did not arise out of or in the course of the employment and the claimant’s injuries were non-compensable. This is a significant departure from previous cases which have viewed work-related travel as being “indivisible.” The Court is now inviting employers and insurers to pay close attention to whether the claimant was engaged in any activity that arguably benefits the employer. If the answer is no, a denial of the claim may be in order.
As always, the Workers Compensation Practice Group of Wallace Saunders looks forward to the opportunity to answer your questions regarding this and other developments. Please contact us should you have any questions or concerns.
Ryan D. Weltz
For the Firm