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Holler v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Tri Wire Eng'g Solutions, Inc.)

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

October 17, 2014

Dane R. Holler, Petitioner
v.
Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Tri Wire Engineering Solutions, Inc.), Respondent

Submitted May 2, 2014

Appealed From No. A12-0062. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board.

Susan Paczak and Sandra W. Kokal, Pittsburgh, for petitioner.

Joseph A. Ramser, Pittsburgh, for respondent.

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, Judge, HONORABLE P. KEVIN BROBSON, Judge, HONORABLE JAMES GARDNER COLINS, Senior Judge.  Judge Leadbetter concurs in the result only.

OPINION

Page 69

BROBSON, JUDGE

Dane R. Holler (Claimant) petitions for review of an order of the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Board), which affirmed a decision of a Workers' Compensation Judge (WCJ), denying Claimant's petition for benefits. Claimant sought benefits for injuries he sustained in an automobile accident that occurred while he was driving to Tri Wire Engineering Solution, Inc.'s (Employer) company facility. For the reasons discussed below, we now reverse the Board's order and remand the matter for further proceedings.[1]

The facts of this case are not in dispute. Claimant was employed as a cable technician, responsible for installing cable and network services for Employer's customers at the customer's home or business. (Reproduced Record (R.R.) 36a.) Claimant

Page 70

began each work day by reporting to Employer's facility, where he checked-in by biometric thumb scan, received his assignments for the day, and picked up his equipment. (R.R. 23a-24a, 36a.) Claimant then spent the rest of his work day traveling to and working at various customer locations. (R.R. 13a-14a.) As a courtesy, Employer allowed Claimant to take his company vehicle home each night and use it to report to work in the mornings. (R.R. 15a, 24a.) Employer prohibited Claimant from using the company vehicle for any other purpose or allowing anyone else to drive it, and Employer did not allow Claimant to have any passengers. (R.R. 24a-25a.)

On the morning of August 13, 2010, while Claimant was driving his company vehicle to Employer's facility prior to the beginning of his work day, Claimant was injured in a single-vehicle accident. (R.R. 36a.) Claimant ran off the road and struck a telephone pole, resulting in significant injuries. ( Id.) Claimant had to be life-flighted to the hospital, and he has not been able to return to work since. ( Id.)

On January 18, 2011, Claimant filed a claim petition seeking workers' compensation benefits. Employer objected to the claim, asserting that Claimant's injuries did not occur during the course and scope of his employment. The parties agreed to bifurcate the issues in the case to first determine whether Claimant was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident which resulted in his injuries. ( Id.)

Claimant was the only witness to testify at the hearing before the WCJ. The WCJ found that Claimant " acknowledged that there was no contract for transportation," and the WCJ determined that he had a fixed place of work. (R.R. 36a-37a.) The WCJ further found that " [t]here are no facts in this case which indicate that claimant was on a special assignment for the employer or that there were special circumstances such that claimant was furthering the business of the employer." (R.R. 37a.) The WCJ concluded that Claimant was not acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of his accident on August 13, 2010. ( Id.) Claimant appealed to the Board, which ...


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