New Case Update - No Exception to Going and Coming Rule in Motor Vehicle Accident


Garrity v. Injured Workers' Ins. Fund, 2012 Md. App. LEXIS 11 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Feb. 9, 2012).

Scott Garrity worked as a part-time bailiff at the District Court for Baltimore City. On June 8, 2006, when returning to the Courthouse from his home, Mr. Garrity was involved in an automobile accident. He suffered serious injuries, and as a result, filed a claim with the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission. The Commission found that Mr. Garrity's injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment. The District Court of Maryland and the Injured Workers' Insurance Fund filed a petition for judicial review with the Baltimore County Circuit Court. The Circuit Court reversed the Commission's finding and Mr. Garrity noted an appeal.

On the day of the accident, Mr. Garrity arrived at the courthouse wearing a Christmas tie. Shortly thereafter, he spilled coffee on his shirt and tie and decided to return to his home to change his clothes. It was on the return to the courthouse that Mr. Garrity was hit head-on by a truck. There was testimony that it was customary for one bailiff to cover another should they need to use the restroom or make copies of a document. There was no custom which allowed a bailiff to leave the courthouse without permission from a supervisor. Mr. Garrity did not inform, nor seek permission from, his supervisor before leaving the courthouse.

A "compensable accidental personal injury occurs when an injury arises out of and in the course of employment. An injury is considered to arise out of employment if it results from the nature, conditions, obligations, or incidents of the employment." "An injury arises in the course of employment when it occurs during the period of employment at a place where the employee reasonably may be in the performance of his duties and while he is fulfilling those duties or engaged in doing something incident thereto."

Typically, an employee who sustains injury while going to or returning from work is not considered to be acting in the course of their employment. Mr. Garrity argued that his injuries were compensable pursuant to the 1.) special mission exception, 2.) dual purpose exception, and 3.) personal comfort exception.

A special mission occurs when "an employee is acting in the course of employment when traveling on a special mission or errand at the request of the employer and in the furtherance of the employer's business, even if the journey is one that is to or from the workplace." Mr. Garrity asserts that the "Policy on Appropriate Attire and Appearance" provides that a professional and appropriate image must be conveyed in the dress of all judiciary employees. He argued that this policy gave express authority for him to return home to change so that his clothes may comply. However, no one instructed Mr. Garrity to return home to change his clothes. It has been held that "the special mission exception ordinarily is recognized when an employee is acting in accordance with a specific request from an employer." That did not occur here.

An injury is compensable under the dual purpose exception if "the injury occurs during a trip that serves both a business and personal purpose." Mr. Garrity argued that because he took his radio with him he was still serving the business purpose. The Court reasoned, however, that had he been called using the radio, Mr. Garrity would not have been able to respond as expected as he was not in the courthouse. Additionally, the Court stated that though Mr. Garrity himself thought his attire inappropriate, the Court's purposes would have been better served by his remaining on the premises.

Finally, it was argued that the personal comfort exception applied. This exception is most typically applied in cases where an employee consumes food and drink during an employer-sanctioned break. These cases often also involve the encouragement of the employer to attend to one's personal comforts. In Mr. Garrity's case he was not encouraged to leave the courthouse to change his clothes nor was this action implicitly accepted. Therefore, the Court held that this exception also did not serve to make Mr. Garrity's injuries compensable.