Calvo v. Montgomery County, 459 Md. 315 (2018), a May 21, 2018 decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals, did not establish new law, but instead clarified the bounds of the law of the “special mission” or “errand” exception to the going and coming rule. The going and coming rule generally prohibits accidents taking place during an employee’s trip to and from the workplace from being a compensable work accident. The special mission exception, however, may allow an accident occurring during that trip to or from the workplace to be compensable under workers’ compensation law.
As noted in Calvo, the special mission exception has long been recognized by Maryland courts to allow a trip not normally covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act to be brought within the course of employment. A trip may be considered a special mission when “the trouble and time of making the journey, or the special inconvenience, hazard, or urgency of making it in the particular circumstances is itself sufficiently substantial to be viewed as an integral part of the service itself.” Calvo, 459 Md. 315, 333–34 (2018).
To qualify for the exception, the journey must have been required by the Employer. In determining whether a journey qualifies as a special mission, the following factors and bounds are at issue:
- Regularity or usualness of journey, in the context of the normal job duties.
The Court clarified that the existing bounds show that journeys that occur once a month, or are part of regular job duties, are not unusual. A journey on hours or days that are not normally worked could be unusual.
- Onerousness of the journey compared to the service performed at the end of the journey.
The conditions of travel, distance of travel, and whether the journey was on a normal work day and hours all should be balanced against the task at the end of the journey. Some employees may have a more onerous regular job such as being on call constantly, but that is insufficient in that case to bring about the special errand exception.
- Suddenness or urgency of the mission.
The Court minimized this factor so much that it made clear it is not necessary for a finding of the special errand exception. Factors that could show suddenness and urgency include the timing of notice given and a deadline on the same day.
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