Semmes principal Michael S. Fox argued last October before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (CSA). At issue was the Circuit Court for Baltimore County’s Order granting claimant’s motion for judgment at the conclusion of a jury trial which found claimant’s injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment.
On June 27, 2019, the CSA ruled that the circuit court erred in ruling, as a matter of law, that Claimant’s injury arose out of and in the course of employment, and the case is remanded for a new trial for a jury to resolve these predicate factual issues.
In this case, Claimant was a customer service representative, and his job entailed travelling in his personal car to various stores throughout Maryland to meet delivery drivers and receive inventory deliveries for each of his accounts. On 1/28/2016, Claimant, while still at home, used his employer-provided handheld computer to download his route for the day. His intention when leaving his house was to first drop off his son at daycare on the way to his first account. However, he slipped on black ice on the sidewalk by his car in front of his home and suffered injury to his right leg. The Workers’ Compensation Commission initially denied the claim, but the Circuit Court reversed on appeal by granting Claimant’s motion for judgment.
The CSA, in framing the issue, noted that “[i]n examining this issue, we must address a matter of first impression under Maryland workers’ compensation law; namely, whether an employee’s home can qualify as a work place or work site.” The Court examined certain principles from both Maryland and out-of-state cases to guide its analysis of whether the home can be recognized as a work site under Maryland’s workers’ compensation law. Ultimately, the Court of Special Appeals held that “injuries sustained by the employee en route from the employee’s home work site to another work-related site may arise out of and in the course of employment.” “. . . [I]n order to determine whether a home qualifies as a work site, we adopt a three-part test rooted in eminent principles in workers’ compensation law.”
The Court established the following three-part test: “1) the quantity and regularity of work performed at home; 2) the presence of work equipment at home; and 3) the special circumstances of the employment rendering it necessary, and not merely personally convenient, to work at home.”
Under the last prong, the Court notes that the fact-finder “should also consider whether the employer acquiesced to the employee’s use of his or her home as a work site, or reasonably should have known the employee was regularly using the home as a work site.”
In applying the principles to the case, the Court could not definitively state that the evidence permitted “but on conclusion” with regard to whether Claimant’s injury occurred in the course of his employment. The Court found that “material facts remained in dispute in this case relating to all of the indicia for determining whether the home qualified as a work site.” Moreover, the facts also permitted alternative inferences regarding the “time component of the ‘in the course of’ analysis.”
As a result, the Court has now concluded the circuit court erred in ruling, as a matter of law, that Claimant’s injury arose out of and in the course of employment, and the case is remanded for a new trial for a jury to resolve these predicate factual issues.
The Maryland Daily Record covered the landmark ruling, quoting Mr. Fox as follows:
“Now we finally have some guidance as to whether one’s home can be considered a worksite for purposes of entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits. We are recognizing that there are nontraditional worksites in today’s modern era.”
Opinion available at: https://mdcourts.gov/data/opinions/cosa/2019/1289s17.pdf