Recent Court Decision Discusses “Coming and Going Rule” in Massachusetts’ Workers’ Compensation

gavel-5-1409595-mIn re Kelbe’s Case, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts presented a decision that provides an adequate summary of the “going and coming” rule in worker’s compensation cases, which generally disallows monetary recovery for injured employees. The court’s opinion began with a review of the general rule, which states that workers’ compensation is not usually available to compensate employees who are injured during the course of travel to and from work. However, injuries that occur on the employer’s premises are compensable, as are injuries that occur where the employer owns the right of passage, such as a parking garage. Other exceptions to this general rule include, when the employee’s regular duties involved traveling away from the employer’s premises; when the accident occurred the employee was traveling home from an off-site work-related meeting or social event for the employer; or when the vehicle the employee was in at the time of the accident was provided by the employer for the employee’s travel.

In this case, the MIT employee acknowledged that he had signed out of work and was driving home when the accident occurred. However, the plaintiff based his argument on the idea that his employer, MIT, exercised control over the street on which he traveled, because it owned buildings on both sides of the street, and MIT often cleared the snow that accumulated there during winter months. Furthermore, he argued the MIT campus police patrolled the area where the incident ensued and in fact were first responders at the time of his accident, which further demonstrated in his opinion that his employer had control over the premises.

The administrative judge who initially ruled on the matter found that the employee’s route home was by choice, and he was not required to take that street home by his employer. The judge reasoned that the employee’s independent decision to be on that street was based on where he parked his scooter during his working hours. He could have chosen to take public transportation like he usually did but instead he made the conscious decision to use his scooter as transportation. In terms of the snow plowing done by MIT, the judge found that it was purely voluntary on the part of the academic institution and the city of Cambridge was responsible for plowing, along with enforcing parking and traffic laws on the street. The judge agreed that MIT employees were the first responders to the accident, but after the first responders the Cambridge police department headed the investigation into the accident. Therefore, the judge denied the employee’s worker’s compensation claim and found that the employee could not show that the accident occurred on his employer’s premises, or that one of the exceptions to the “going and coming rule” applied.

The Appeals Court of Massachusetts agreed with the administrative judge’s ruling and found it not to be arbitrary or capricious, or based on an error of law, but rather supported by evidentiary record. Thus, the decision was affirmed denying the MIT employee’s claim for worker’s compensation. This case offers an in depth look into the “going and coming” rule in Massachusetts. Although the court ruled in the employer’s favor, it stands to show that an employee could be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits if the employee can prove that an exception to the rule has been met or the accident occurred on the employer’s premises.   If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident on your way to or way home from work due to the negligence of another party, and workers’ compensation does not apply, you may have legal rights via a third party negligence claim. For further information please call our Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at Carney Law Firm who will take the time to understand your situation and properly advise you.