A while ago, I wrote a post about an “idiopathic fall”, one of several ways an injury that occurred at work could still not be compensable under Ohio’s workers’ compensation system. This post is about what Ohio courts define as a “personal errand”, another way a claim that arguably occurred “at work” could not be compensable. In these types of cases, the argument is obviously about what “at work” means.
Under Ohio law, an injury may be compensable, even if not incurred in the actual performance of the employee’s duties, if the employee is in the area of the accident as the result of business-related duties. However, if, at the time of the injury, the employee had deviated from the business purpose of the trip, and was involved in a “personal errand”, compensation may be denied.
The Second Appellate District Court of Appeals considered this issue last December, in the case of Osten v. Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The case involved a flight-attendant who, after completing her flight for the day, checked into a hotel near the airport. That evening, after going to dinner with other airline employees, she fell on a public sidewalk while returning to the hotel and injured her knees and wrists.
The Second Appellate District held that Osten’s injuries were not compensable. The court applied the “totality of the circumstances” test, set forth in Lord v. Daugherty, 66 Ohio St.2d 441. Under that test, the court looks at numerous factors, including the proximity of the scene of the accident to the place of employment; the degree of control the employer had over the scene of the accident; and the benefit the employer received from the employee’s presence at the scene of the accident, to determine whether there is a sufficient causal connection between employment and the accident.
In the Osten case, the court found that there was not a sufficient causal connection between the employment and the accident because, among other things, the location of the accident was too far removed from the employee’s last performance of her business duties; and because the employer did not receive any particular benefit from the fact that employees traveled to restaurants during off duty hours.