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Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Ass’n of Mid-Ohio: On Defining On-The-Job in Workers’ Compensation Cases

Workers’ compensation claims that involve an on-the-job injury that occurred while driving in a vehicle tend to involve more complex litigation. In Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Ass’n of Mid-Ohio, claimant was a nurse who worked for an employer that provided in-home healthcare to patients.

tree-at-the-same-time-600241-m.jpgClaimant began working for employer in November of 2006. On a typical workday, claimant would see multiple patients in their respective homes. She drove her personal vehicle when going to see her clients. She would stop in the office to pick up supplies, read her mail, and attend company meetings.

When she worked on the weekends, she was given paid mileage from her home to her first patient, driving to additional patients’ homes, and for her ride home after work. The company would subtract 24 miles and 30 minutes from each day’s earnings to account for the time spent driving to the office, even if she did not actually go to the office.

One day in January of 2011, claimant was instructed to drive from her home to her first patient. Claimant decided to drop her two children and their two friends off at the mall on her way to the first patient’s home. During that trip to the mall, claimant was at a red light when she was hit from behind. She filed a workers’ compensation claim for a sprained neck.

The workers’ compensation commission approved her claim. Her employer appealed to a hearing officer who vacated the earlier allowance and denied the claim, because she was not within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident.

Claimant then appealed the district officer’s determination to a staff officer at the commission, who allowed the claim. This was based on the fact that claimant was paid mileage from her home to her first patient, so she was on the job at the time of this accident.

Employer filed an appeal, but the commission had determined not to hear the case again, so an appeal was made to the civil court of jurisdiction. This court found that claimant was not entitled to benefits, because she was clearly on a personal errand at the time of the accident and thus not acting within the scope of her employment for the purposes of workers’ compensation.

Claimant appealed this to the district court, which, in a split decision, found claimant to be within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident. At this point, employer appealed to the state supreme court ,and the court decided to hear the case.

As our on-the-job injury attorneys in Boston can explain, this is an example of how far some employers and insurance companies will go to avoid paying a claim. It is important to have someone on your side who will fight for your rights and do what is necessary to help you attain the workers’ compensation benefits to which you are entitled.

Ultimately, the state supreme court reversed the trial court’s finding that she was on the job but did not dispose of her case. It was determined that this was a factual dispute that should be decided by a jury in the civil trial court.

If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim: 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Ass’n of Mid-Ohio
, October 21, 2014, Ohio Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Frith v. WSI – Proving Worsening Condition Is Related to Work Injury, May 27, 2014, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog