Truck Driver Seeking Lost Cell Phone On Christmas Eve Entitled To Benefits For Injury Sustained In Fall On Ice

A majority of the Commission affirmed the arbitrator’s award of benefits to a truck driver who was injured while searching for his cell phone because his injury was incidental to his employment.

Case Name: Robert Fisher v. Roadway Express, [Ill. Ind. Com.] Nos. 00 WC 17421, 02 IIC 0429, 05/31/02

The claimant, a truck driver for a delivery company, suffered his injury on Christmas Eve after he completed his job duties, returned the truck to the company’s terminal and went home. The claimant discovered he had lost his cell phone. The claimant called the terminal and was told by the supervisor on duty that the phone was not in the office. The claimant returned to the terminal and searched the office together with the supervisor. The claimant searched the truck and was returning to the office, when he slipped and fell on ice. He suffered an occult fracture of the distal right radius.

The claimant testified he needed to retrieve the cell phone on Christmas Eve for three reasons:

  1. He wished to ensure the cell phone was fully charged so he could use it for work purposes;
  2. He need to search the truck because there was no guarantee he would use the truck his next scheduled workday; and
  3. He needed the cell phone because defendant’s policy was to call him on the cell phone to notify him of the time to report to work.

The defendant’s safety director confirmed the claimant needed the cell phone for work purposes. He also indicated the company felt it was in its best interest to promptly dispatch mechanical or emergency assistance and that cell phones best served this purpose.

The arbitrator found a cell phone served defendant’s best interests and therefore, the claimant’s injury arose out of the course of his employment. A majority of the Commission affirmed the arbitrator’s ruling.

The dissent noted the company did not require the claimant to have a cell phone while at home and the employer could have called the claimant on his home telephone. The dissenting Commission member also stated that because the defendant’s premises were closed on Christmas Eve and the claimant had not work-related reason to go there, the defendant had no obligation to keep its premises free of ice.