Law School Case Brief
Krushwitz v. McDonald's Rests. - 323 Or. 520, 919 P.2d 465 (1996)
The statutory phrase "arising out of and in the course of employment" must be applied in each case so as to best effectuate the socio-economic purpose of the Worker's Compensation Act: the financial protection of the worker and his/her family from poverty due to injury incurred in production, regardless of fault, as an inherent cost of the product to the consumer. There is no formula for decision. Rather, in each case, every pertinent factor must be considered as a part of the whole. It is the basic purpose of the act which gives weight to particular facts and direction to the analysis of whether an injury arises out of and in the course of employment. The state supreme court concludes that, if the injury has sufficient work relationship, then it arises out of and in the course of employment and the statute is satisfied.
Matthew Theurer, an 18-year-old high school student, worked part time at a restaurant owned by McDonald's Restaurants of Oregon, Inc. Upon completing his shift, Theurer left the restaurant to drive home. His automobile crossed the center line on the highway, after he fell asleep at the wheel, and struck another automobile head-on. Theurer was killed in that collision. Helen Krushwitz, Theurer’s mother and the personal representative of his estate, filed this wrongful death action against defendant and McDonald's Corporation. Helen alleged that McDonald’s negligently caused Theurer's death, in that McDonald’s: (1) knew or should have known that Theurer had worked too many hours without adequate sleep to drive home safely; (2) should have foreseen that driving with inadequate sleep posed a risk of harm to Theurer and to others; and (3) was negligent in scheduling Theurer to work more hours than was reasonable in the circumstances. Helen also alleged that, because McDonald’s required Theurer to work more than 10 hours in one day, McDonald’s was negligent per se and also was subject to statutory liability. The trial court agreed with McDonald’s that the Workers' Compensation Law provided an exclusive remedy and, consequently, granted the motion to dismiss and entered judgment against Helen. The Court of Appeals determined that Theurer had suffered a compensable injury under the "general hazard" exception to the going and coming rule and, consequently, that the exclusivity provision of the Workers' Compensation Law barred plaintiff's wrongful death action. The Court of Appeals further held that, because Theurer's death was compensable under the Workers' Compensation Law, Helen had a remedy and, therefore, dismissal of the complaint violated no constitutional provisions. Helen appealed the case.
1. Was the death of an employee in an automobile accident while driving home from suffered a “compensable injury?”
2. Were the exclusivity provisions contained in the Workers’ Compensation Law preclude plaintiff’s wrongful death action?
1. The Court reasoned that the Theurer did not suffer a compensable injury under Or. Rev. Stat. § 656.005(7)(a) because his death did not occur in the course of his employment, and that the special errand exception to the coming and going rule did not apply because he was not acting in furtherance of the employer's at the time of his accident and McDonald’s did not have any right to control his travel. The Court also held that the greater hazard exception to the coming and going rule did not apply either because the accident did not occur upon a route that was the sole means of ingress to or egress from the employer's premises.
2. The Court determined that the exclusivity provision in Or. Rev. Stat. § 656.018(6) did not preclude the wrongful death action. The text of Or. Rev. Stat. § 656.018(6) specifically states that the workers' compensation exclusivity provisions apply to all injuries "arising out of and in the course of employment." Because Theurer's death did not occur in the course of his employment, the exclusivity provisions contained in the Workers' Compensation Law do not apply to this case.
The Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court and remanded the case to the trial court.
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