Ohio: Dual-Purpose Doctrine for Traveling Workers Rejected

By SHRM Online Staff Nov 21, 2014
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The Ohio Supreme Court rejected the dual-purpose doctrine for determining whether an employee injured while traveling is entitled to worker’s compensation and held that an injury must arise in the course of and out of an injured employee’s employment.

Tamara Friebel, was employed by Visiting Nurse Association of Mid-Ohio (VNA) as a home health nurse to provide in-home health-care services to VNA clients. On a typical work day, Friebel traveled from the home of one patient to another in her personal vehicle. On Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011, Friebel was expected to travel from her home in Shelby, Ohio, to the home of her first patient of the day, who lived in Ontario, Ohio. Friebel decided to transport her daughter, her son, and two family friends to the Richland Mall in Ontario on her way to the patients home.

While stopped at a traffic light before dropping her passengers off, Friebels car was hit from behind. Friebel sought workerscompensation for a neck sprain.

The Ohio Supreme Court accepted VNA’s appeal of an appellate court’s ruling in Friebel’s favor that even though she had intended to drop her passengers off at the mall, she had had the dual intent to travel to her patients home, and that when she was injured, she had not yet diverted from that path.

The supreme court noted that when an employee is injured while traveling for both business and personal purposes, some jurisdictions recognize a dual-intent doctrine, or dual- purpose doctrine. However, the court rejected this doctrine. The supreme court explained that an injury compensable under the workers’ compensation system must have occurred “in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employees employment.”

An injury occurs in the course of employment when an employee is engaged in a required employment duty or activity consistent with their contract for hire and logically related to the employers business. An injury arises out of employment when there is a causal connection between the employment and the injury, which depends on the totality of the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident, including: (1) the proximity of the scene of the accident to the place of employment, (2) the degree of control the employer had over the scene of the accident, and (3) the benefit the employer received from the injured employees presence at the scene of the accident, according to the court.

Explaining that even when work creates the necessity for travel and the travel includes a personal purpose, workerscompensation benefits are available only for an injury that occurs in the course of and arising out of the employment, the supreme court reversed the appellate court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Assn. of Mid-Ohio, Ohio, No. 4531 (Oct. 21, 2014).

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