Broadly, injuries that occur during a normal commute to work are normally not covered by Maryland Workers’ Compensation, unless a special exception applies. This concept is called the going-and coming rule.
The highest court in Maryland, the Court of Appeals, handed down an opinion on May 21 that sheds light on the special mission or errand exception to the rule.
In Calvo v. Montgomery County, the high court explained that to be covered by Workers’ Compensation, an injury must arise out of and in the course of employment. Calvo was a bus driver with 20 years’ experience working for the county. On the way to a mandatory Saturday training that happened once per year, she was injured when her vehicle was rear ended during the journey.
Saturday was normally her day off and the training was at a location away from her usual place of work.
The court found that the injury arose out of her employment because of the positional risk test, which asks whether but-for an employer’s requirement, the worker would not have been injured. Here, but-for the required training, Calvo would not have been in the accident.
Whether an injury occurs in the course of employment looks at the time, place and circumstances vis-à-vis the employment. To be covered, a claimant must be performing work duties or “doing something incident to those duties.”
The employer asserted that the injury was not covered because of the going-and-coming rule, but Calvo successfully argued that the special mission exception could apply. Under this exception, an injury is covered during a commute or journey when the travel was done at the direction of the employer and “in furtherance of the employer’s business.”
Analysis of whether the special mission exception applies is highly dependent on the unique facts of each case. The Court of Appeals agreed with Calvo because:
- The trip was mandatory.
- The journey could be found to be irregular or unusual because it was on her day off at a different location than her usual place of reporting for work.
- The trip could be found onerous because it was on her normal day off.
The court admitted that the case was a close one, but that because a reasonable jury could find in favor of Calvo under these facts, the courts below should not have granted summary judgment. The court reversed and sent the case back for trial.