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Washington: Traveling Employee Rule Doesn’t Save Drunken Employee’s Dune Buggy Claim

April 11, 2014 (1 min read)

A claims adjuster who had been assigned remote duties in connection with the devastation to Galveston Island caused by Hurricane Ike and who drank one evening to the point of intoxication did not remain within the scope of employment under the traveling employee doctrine, held a Washington appellate court.  Accordingly, injuries sustained when he apparently fell from some sort of vehicle while “riding in [the] dunes” were not compensable.  The court acknowledged that a traveling employee is generally considered to be in the course of employment continuously during the entire trip.  There is an important exception, however, if the employee engages in a distinct departure on a personal errand. The court added that the proper inquiry in determining if a traveling employee has left the course of employment is "whether the employee was pursuing normal creature comforts and reasonably comprehended necessities or strictly personal amusement ventures."  The employee admitted that on the evening of the injury he had been drinking heavily and could not really recall the circumstances leading up to the incident.  The court held that becoming intoxicated was not necessary to the employee’s health and comfort.  Moreover, without evidence as to how the accident occurred, any theory offered by the employee was purely speculative.

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 

See Knight v. Department of Labor and Indus., 2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 778 (Apr. 7, 2014)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 25.01 

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