Worker’s Compensation Benefits During Coffee Break

A New Jersey Appellate Division Court ruled on January 13, 2010, in the case of Cooper, Sr. v. Barnickel Enterprises, A-1813-08T3, that an employee who has some “time to kill” during his workday and decides to drive a company truck to a local delicatessen about five miles from his place of employment for a cup of coffee is entitled to worker’s compensation benefits if he or she is involved in an accident during the trip to or from the delicatessen. In this case, an employee suffered multiple compound comminuted fractures to both legs and his left arm as a result of a motor vehicle accident on his way for the coffee. He was operating a company truck at the time of the accident. The injured worker had arrived for a meeting at a union hall in Winslow Township, New Jersey. The individuals with whom he was to meet were not available. The worker had some time to kill and decided to drive to a delicatessen five miles away.

The New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Court ruled in this case that the injured worker was in the course of his employment at the time of the accident and used both the “personal comfort” and the “special mission” doctrines to reach the ruling. The worker was deemed permanently and totally disabled due to his injuries and worker’s compensation benefits were awarded accordingly.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the worker’s “decision to seek out his preferred type of beverage at an off-site location constituted a personal errand wholly unrelated to his work activities.” The New Jersey Appellate Division Court affirmed the lower court’s findings and ruled in favor of the injured worker. The Court determined “it cannot be expected that he would stand like a statute or remain at the union hall with nothing to do for such a period, particularly when there was no coffee available at the site.”

If you have been injured on the job in the state of New Jersey, contact the firm of Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. for a comprehensive review of your case. The New Jersey Worker’s Compensation attorneys at the Princeton, New Jersey law firm of Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. can advise you of your rights as an employee. Speak with a Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. attorney today to understand your rights as an injured employee in the State of New Jersey.