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Officer Ross suffered injuries when her police vehicle car collided with another vehicle near Tooele, while she was returning home after a one hour, required meeting in Salt Lake. The Commission found she had contracted to drive her police vehicle to and from work as part of a “Take Home Car Program” which specifically contemplated vehicle use outside of Salt Lake County for officers residing in adjoining counties. Although she had her 18 month old child in the vehicle, the Program contemplated passengers may be in the vehicle, although they had to be left at a safe place before the officer could respond to dangers calls or emergencies. She had all the equipment with her to allow her to respond to calls or emergencies, and she was monitoring her police radio, all as she was obligated to do under the Program.
Salt Lake City dispute over Officer Ross' entitlement to workers compensation benefits centered on their reliance on the “going and coming rule,” the fact that she admitted to “spotty reception” around Tooele, and that she had an 18 month old child with her. They also claimed the Commission was bound by Ahlstrom v. Salt Lake City, 73 P. 3d 315 (2003), a personal injury action seeking damages against Salt Lake City from that same accident, in which the plaintiffs alleged the City was vicariously responsible for the negligence by Officer Ross. In the personal injury case, the Supreme Court found that the facts were not sufficient to find Officer Ross was acting within the course and scope of her employment for purposes of Salt Lake City’s vicarious liability. Before the Supreme Court, however, they stated, for the first time, that she would have been covered if the collision had occurred in Salt Lake City, causing the Court to question the logic of that argument and just how they expected her to park the police car at the City line. The major factor from other jurisdictions in deciding such cases has been the requirement that the officer be monitoring the radio for calls, thereby rendering them subject to the employer’s ongoing control. In response to the City’s arguments that the “spotty reception” precluded reliance on those cases, the Court again questioned how an employee’s coverage could kick on and off during a trip, depending on the reception. The case was initially argued to the Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court of Utah. The Supreme Court held that there was sufficient benefit to the employer in her driving that car in that location to justify the imposition of workers' compensation benefits even though there was not sufficient benefit to the employer to hold it vicariously liable for the injuries resulting to others from the officer's actions. The Court emphasized that there are very different presumptions governing worker's compensation and negligence cases and the legal effect of identical facts may be different in those two types of cases. For Officer Ross to be entitled to benefits, it is only necessary to determine whether she was engaged in an activity which was "at least incidental" to employment or, in other words, an activity which advances, directly or indirectly, the employer's interests. Whether or not she also derived benefits from the activity "is largely irrelevant." SLC v. Labor Comm'n and Ross, 153 P. 3d 179 (Utah, 2007) See also article by Gary E. Atkin, UTLA Journal, Summer 2006