Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of William F. Stevens v. Port Authority of Allegheny County, No. A-79945.
Dennis L. Veraldi, with him Jo Ann Haller, Ruffin, Hazlett, Snyder, Brown & Stabile, for petitioner.
John W. McTiernan, McArdle, Caroselli, Spagnolli & Beachler, for respondent, William F. Stevens.
Judges Rogers, Williams, Jr. and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 164]
The Port Authority of Allegheny County (employer) seeks review of a determination of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, affirming the decision of a referee, that William F. Stevens, one of the employer's bus drivers, is eligible for approximately four weeks of compensation benefits related to a fracture of his left ankle.
The only issue is whether the claimant's disability arose in the course of and was related to his employment within the meaning of Section 301(c) of the Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act.*fn1 This issue is one of law based on the well-supported factual findings of the referee. These findings reveal, and it is undisputed, that on March 31, 1979, the claimant reported to the employer's Collier division garage in Bridgeport where he punched a time clock and was assigned to drive a Route 41A bus which assignment entailed approximately five circuits between downtown Pittsburgh and the Mount Lebanon suburbs; that his posted schedule required him to be, and in fact he was, relieved by another driver at 1:15 p.m. at the corner of Smithfield and Fifth Street in Pittsburgh in order to permit the claimant to take a lunch break; that while crossing Smithfield on the way to a restaurant
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 165]
the claimant tread in and stumbled on account of a pothole located immediately adjacent to trolley tracks maintained by the employer; that the claimant's ankle caused him increasing discomfort throughout the day and, upon examination after completion of his duties the ankle was shown to have been fractured resulting in the period of temporary total disability for which compensation was granted.
The employer, with citation to many cases establishing that an employee is not, in the usual case, eligible for benefits while on a lunch break away from the employer's premises,*fn2 contends that the Board erred in its application of the law to these facts.*fn3
[ 70 Pa. Commw. Page 166]
The Board, however, and the claimant on the occasion of this appeal, have placed this case in the company of those illustrative of the rule that the course of employment of workers who perform their duties off the premises of the employer is necessarily broader than that of employees engaged on the employer's premises. Krapf v. Arthur, 297 Pa. 304, 146 A. 894 (1929); Combs v. Cole Brothers' Circus, 165 Pa. Superior Ct. 346, 67 A.2d 791 (1949); Capital International Airways, Inc. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 58 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 551, 428 A.2d 295 (1981). The Appeal Board determined that as to off-the-premises employees, and especially employees whose duties involve travel, the course of employment includes necessary and authorized breaks for lunch and injuries sustained during such breaks are compensable.
The general rule is that a travelling employee while so engaged is within the course of his employment unless what he was doing at the time of the accident is so foreign to and removed from his usual employment as to constitute an abandonment thereof. Maher v. Hallmark Cards, Inc., 207 Pa. Superior Ct. 472, 218 A.2d 593 (1966); Spry v. Polt, 186 Pa. Superior Ct. 326, 142 A.2d 484 (1958); Combs v. Cole Brothers' Circus. For example, the leading case of Maher v. Hallmark Cards, Inc., involved a travelling employee who, on finishing work at a store distant from his ...