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Summary Judgment Improperly Granted Against Employee Injured Outside of Normal Work Hours

Rina Calvo v. Montgomery County, No. 48-412413 (Maryland Court of Appeals, May 21, 2018), available at: https://mdcourts.gov/data/opinions/coa/2018/48a17.pdf

(July 19, 2018) Garrett Cusack, Summer Associate.

For more information, contact Eric Leppo, Esquire

The Workers Compensation Act provides compensation to workers for injuries that arise out of and in the course of employment. A recent decision from the Maryland Court of Appeals provides a useful illustration of Maryland courts’ liberal application of the rule. Calvo sought compensation from the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission for injuries sustained while driving to a training session mandated by her employer. After the Commission awarded compensation, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County granted the County’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that Calvo’s recovery is barred by the “going and coming rule.” The Court of Special Appeals affirmed and an appeal to the Court of Appeals followed.

Rina Calvo was a Montgomery County bus driver who, while commuting to a training session mandated by her employer, was rear-ended by another car. Calvo had worked for Montgomery County for approximately 20 years and regularly worked Monday through Friday.  The collision, however, took place on a Saturday, the same day as the mandatory training session. The County argued that Calvo should be precluded from compensation under the “going and coming rule,” which provides that injuries sustained while commuting to or from work do not arise out of and in the course of employment. Calvo maintained that compensation was proper under the rule’s special mission exception, or because she was a travelling employee.

On appeal, the Maryland Court of Appeals first had to determine whether the injury arose out of Calvo’s employment. Judge Adkins examined whether or not the injury would have occurred but for the fact that Calvo’s employer had placed her in the position where she was injured.  Considering the time, place, and circumstances of the accident in relation to the employment, the Court made note of the fact that Calvo did not typically work on Saturdays and that, but for her employer’s requirement that she attend the training session, she would not have been driving at the time of the incident. Therefore, the Court of Appeals found that her travel was sufficiently work-related to satisfy the “arises out of” requirement.

The Court of Appeals then turned to the second prong of the test, examining whether or not the injury occurred in the course of her employment. To satisfy this test, Calvo’s injury must have occurred during her employment when she was in the performance of her duties or doing something incident to those duties. The County contended that the going and coming rule controls because Calvo was merely commuting to work at the time of the incident. While the Court of Appeals partially agreed, it nevertheless found that Calvo could benefit from the special mission exception, which characterizes certain, unusual, missions or errands as within course of employment so long as they are performed for the benefit of the employer.

In reaching this conclusion, Judge Adkins considered a number of factors including the relative regularity or unusualness of the particular journey and the relative onerousness of the journey compared with the service to be performed. Ultimately, the fact(s) that the training took place at a different location from Calvo’s normal work place, she was required to work on a day she did not normally work, and the training was mandated by the employer convinced the Court of Appeals that a fact-finder could reasonably conclude that the special mission exception applies.  Therefore, it was improper to grant the County’s motion for summary judgment.