Workers' Compensation

Utah: Widow’s Tort Case Against Co-Worker Barred under Special Errand Rule

The Supreme Court of Utah affirmed a trial court’s determination that fatal injuries sustained in a vehicular accident involving an automobile being driven by the decedent’s co-worker, Giguere, and in which the decedent was a passenger were sustained in the course and scope of the employment and that accordingly, a wrongful death action filed by the decedent’s widow against the co-worker driver was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the state’s workers’ compensation law.  Evidence suggested that the workers had been separately sent to Maryland and Virginia to work on two cabinet-installation projects and that defendant Giguere’s employment contract indicated that the expenses related to the return trip to Utah would be covered, but that Giguere would not be paid for the time it took to return.  The decedent’s widow contended that since Giguere was not being paid, he was not in the course of the employment and the wrongful death action should not, therefore, be barred.  Quoting Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the Utah Supreme Court disagreed, finding that while the employment contract might be relevant in defining the parameters of the employer-employee relationship, it was not determinative of whether a particular task arose out of or was performed in the course of a worker's employment.  That the co-worker’s employment contract denied him pay for return travel time was not determinative. Instead, the actual facts and circumstances surrounding the return trip demonstrated that at the time of the accident the two employees were on a special errand for their employer.  The widow’s action was barred.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See Colvin v. Giguere, 2014 Utah LEXIS 88 (June 20, 2014) [2014 Utah LEXIS 88 (June 20, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 14.05 [14.05]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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