Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sumrall v. Modern Alloys (Cal. Ct. App. - April 13, 2017)

I have a hard time understanding this opinion.  And I mean that literally.  I have difficulty even getting a basic understanding of what the Court of Appeal is trying to say.

It's a "coming-and-going" rule case.  An employer isn't liable for things you do on your commute; e.g., from your home to your work.  On the theory that where you live is your choice and benefits "you", not the employer.  (Put to one side whether that makes economic sense.  It's the law.)

So if you drive from H (home) to W (work), any accident on the way is on you, not your employer.  Ditto for W to H.

Conversely, if you're driving for work, that's on your employer.  So W to W is on the employer.

The difficulty here arises from the fact that "W" isn't totally clear.  It's a construction company, and there's a company "yard," where the employees meet before work, and then everyone drives (often a company vehicle" from the yard to the actual worksite.  (For what it's worth, the employees don't get paid until they're at the worksite.)

So the employees here go from H to Y to W.  And the accident happens on the way from H to Y.

So what's the rule?

The Court of Appeal says that it's a genuine issue of material fact, since it's unclear whether Y amounts to W.

I don't get it.

Clearly Y is part of the employee's work.  It's the location of the company.  The employee is required to be there.

If that's the case (and it clearly is), then it seems to me that the Yard unambiguously counts as the workplace.  Hence the coming-and-going rule applies.

The Court of Appeal seems to think that there's only one W.  But I don't get that.  There can clearly be more than one places of work.  If I tell you to be at one worksite at 8:00 a.m., and then to drive from there to another at 11:00 a.m., both of those places are W's.  When you drive from home to the first W, that's on you.  When you drive to the second -- not from your home -- that's on me.

The point is that you're driving FROM HOME.  At the direction of your employer.  That's what happens in the present case.  Home.  To do some work.  Hence the coming and going rule.

Sure, there may be some variables.  When you're "on call" or things like that.  But I don't see any of them coming into play here.

I'm sure my analysis is overly simplistic.  I'm confident that the Court of Appeal perceives some complexity that I don't see.

But I think that when you're going from your house to a company-owned yard, and from there to a worksite, the answer just seems straightforward to me.