Kansas Court: Travel ‘Intrinsic’ to Oil Field Work, Comp Benefits Apply

By Stephanie K. Jones | July 7, 2014
oil_rig

Kansas’ highest court reversed a state appeals court finding that an oil field worker was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits after he was injured while riding home from his workplace.

The nature of oil field work, where an employee must travel from place to place to perform his duties, played into decision by the Kansas Supreme Court.

David Williams, an oil field worker for Petromark Drilling LLC, was traveling home from a drill site, riding in a co-worker’s car, when a rear tire on the vehicle blew out. The car rolled over several times. Williams was ejected from the vehicle and was injured.

The administrative law judge ruled in favor of Petromark. Relying on the “going and coming” rule in state statute, the ALJ concluded that Williams’ “injuries were not compensable because they did not arise out of and in the course of his employment,” the Supreme Court opinion states.

The ALJ wrote that when the accident occurred, Williams “was not traveling between well sites, and he was not performing any services for his employer or advancing his employer’s interests. He was simply on his way home at the end of the work day.”

Williams appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Board, which reversed the ALJ’s finding, stating that Williams’ job demanded he “travel to ever-changing locations. Travel was inherent to the job. When travel is inherent to or an integral part of the job, the going and coming rule does not apply.”

The Court of Appeals found the “going and coming” rule to be applicable, but the Kansas Supreme Court said there was “substantial competent evidence in the record on appeal” to support the board’s finding that the blowout and Williams’ injuries occurred “during travel intrinsic to his duties for Petromark.”

The Court cited the board’s explanation that Williams’ job “required that he travel to ever-changing remote drill sites.” It also noted that Williams’ supervisor, with whom Williams regularly rode to and from worksites, “testified at his deposition that Williams would not be employed if he was unwilling to travel to those sites.”

The Supreme Court said the “Court of Appeals crossed a line from evaluating this evidence in light of the record as a whole to test whether it supported the board’s fact finding into ruling as a matter of law on evidence that was, although undisputed, conflicting under the governing statute.”

The case is David C. Williams v. Petromark Drilling LLC, and Ace Fire Underwriters Ins. Co.

From This Issue

Insurance Journal West July 7, 2014
July 7, 2014
Insurance Journal West Magazine

The Disaster Issue: Insuring Natural & Man-Made Catastrophes; Commercial Auto (including Taxis, Limos & Fleets); Digital Product Guide

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