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Off-Premises Injury Compensable, New Jersey Judge Rules

June 11, 2008
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A computer technician struck by a car while crossing a street to purchase cigarettes and snacks is entitled to medical and temporary disability workers’ compensation benefits, a New Jersey appeals court ruled last week.

In 2003, the technician, Carlos Cruz, was driving a company van en route to a client when he parked across the street from a delicatessen to take his “usual morning break,” according to court records in the case of Carlos Cruz v. Micros Retail Systems Inc.

The deli was about five blocks off the direct route from his employer’s office, where Cruz began his trip, to the client’s site. While crossing the street to the deli, a car struck Cruz and he suffered severe injuries, court records state.

Micros denied that the injuries arose while Cruz was within the scope of his employment, and a witness testified that company policy required employees to go directly to their work sites.

A workers’ comp judge, however, ruled that off-premises employees enjoy the same ability to deal with basic needs, such as lunch and coffee breaks, as do on-premises employees. Cruz’s stop for snacks was a minor deviation from his mission on his employer’s behalf, the judge found.

Micros appealed the judge’s decision, but the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, agreed with the reasoning of the workers’ comp judge.

Filed by Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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