Mr. Tjas was at home preparing for a sales trip. He was expecting the display case to come in the mail to his home that day, so he salted the driveway when he saw the mailman coming. While salting he slipped and broke his neck. He was thereafter quadriplegic due to the accident. The employer disputed Mr. Jtas was entitled to workers compensation benefits and refused payment of both medical and disability benefits. The employer based its denial on its claim that Mr. Tjas salting the driveway was not something which was part of his duties and was not work related. The Labor Commission found that Mr. Tjas was permanently totally disabled and was entitled to workers compensation benefits. On appeal, the Court agreed. The court found that when someone is doing something to benefit the employer, they are working. This was nothing new. The court used prior decisions to reach this decision. They wrote,
Indeed, “[u]nder Utah law, an accident occurs ‘in the course of’ employment when it ‘occurs while the employee is rendering services to his employer which he was hired to do or doing something incidental thereto, at the time when and the place where he was authorized to render such service.’ ” Buczynski, 934 P.2d at 1172 (citations omitted; emphasis added); see Black v. McDonald's of Layton, 733 P.2d 154, 156 (Utah 1987) (indicating accident is in scope of employment when it occurs “within the period of employment, at a place or area where the employee may reasonably be, and while the employee is engaged in an activity at least incidental to his employment”); 82 Am.Jur.2d Workers' Compensation § 266 (1992) (same). An activity is “incidental to the employee's employment if it advances, directly or indirectly, his employer's interests.” Black, 733 P.2d at 156 (emphasis added).
But the Court took this line of reasoning one step farther by finding that the removal of an obstacle (the ice) in order to do the work is incidental to employment and, therefore, covered under workers compensation. This decision clarified what it means to be within the scope of employment and resulted in payment of permanent total disability benefits and millions of dollars in medical expenses caused by this accident. AE CLEVITE, INC. and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. LABOR COMMISSION and Charles Tjas. 996 P. 2d 1072 (Utah App. 2000), Cert. Den. 4 P. 3d 1289 (Utah, 2000). You can also read the article on this case by the Deseret News here: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/745527/At-home-worker-prevails.html?pg=all