Claimant Entitled To Benefits Despite Rule Violations

Case Name: Purnell v. TM Tires, 11 ILWCLB 31 (Ill.Ind.Comm. 2003).

Ruling: The claimant, who was injured in a vehicular accident while on is way to report a truck driver who had left his trailer in front of defendant’s garage was entitled to benefits even though he may have violated several of defendant’s rules, for he was injured while performing an activity in furtherance of his employment and none of the violations were severe enough to remove the claimant from the scope of his employment.

What it means: An employee’s rule violations regarding using his personal vehicle, speeding and not notifying a supervisor were not sever enough to remove him from the scope of his employment at the time of a work-related accident.

Summary: The claimant worked in a railroad yard at the defendant’s “quick stop” garage, which repaired and changed truck tires. On the day of the accident, a truck driver drove around two trucks in line in order to have work performed and dropped his trailer in front of the quick stop garage door. The claimant advised the truck driver that he could not leave his trailer in front of the garage door but the driver unhooked his trailer and drove away. In order to notify the appropriate personnel in the yard so that the truck driver could be stopped and directed to return to move the trailer, the claimant drove his personal vehicle to a check point to report the incident. AS the claimant was crossing an intersection in the railroad yard, he was struck by a spotter wagon. The arbitrator ruled that the claimant’s accident arose out of and in the course of his employment, despite evidence that the claimant had violated defendant’s rules at the time of the accident. The arbitrator found that the claimant was injured while performing an activity in furtherance of his employment. Upon review, the Commission affirmed and adopted the decision of the arbitrator.

Citing Imperial Brass Manufacturing Co v. Industrial Commission, Chadwick v. Industrial Commission and several other cases, the arbitrator explained that if a claimant is injured while performing an activity in furtherance of his employment, benefits will be awarded regardless of whether the claimant violated a rule or was negligent at the time of the accident. In the instant case, the claimant was on his way to report the driver who had left the trailer in front of his garage. This activity was in furtherance of a rule promulgated by his employer. Therefore, the claimant was performing an act in furtherance of his employment.

Furthermore, it was not relevant whether the claimant was ever instructed not to use his vehicle for this purpose, whether the claimant was speeding at the time of the accident, or whether the claimant attempted to contact his supervisor prior to driving his car to the checkpoint. None of these violations were severe enough to remove the claimant from the scope of his employment.