When a Coffee Run Turns Into So Much More

spilled coffeeEven if you’re a Starbucks girl like me and have accepted their cruel prices as a necessary fact in life- sometimes running out for a cup of coffee may cost you more than you were anticipating.

Court Officer John Dreher was supposed to transport a judge who needed help getting to and from the courthouse from his home- this was one of his appointed duties. On his way to the judge’s house he stopped for a cup of coffee and was hit by a car as he was crossing the street.

He was awarded line of duty injury benefits but also filed for accidental disability retirement benefits with the state’s Employees’ Retirement System. He was denied but appealed to the appellate courts. They affirmed New York’s decision and agreed with the State Comptroller- saying their decision is the exclusive authority. The State Comptroller said if the accident occurred while the worker was “in service” they would be eligible. Dreher had testified that he was on duty, but the court decided he was engaged in a personal activity rather than his work duties at the time.

The evidence supported the Comptroller’s initial decision and his appeal was dismissed. There have been other cases, such as Neacosia v NY Power Authority where the worker was injured in an accident on his way home from work while he stopped to drop off a work uniform at the cleaner’s. They determined that because his uniform was provided by his employer and because they paid for cleaning services, that he was within the scope of his employment and could receive benefits.

There are always exceptions to the “coming and going” rule. But wherever you are and whatever you are doing, just make sure you are careful- because even a simple cup of coffee could turn into something much bigger.

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