By Courtney S. Paterson
Paula Dugger v. Home Health Care of Middle Tennessee, et al.
Docket No. 2015-05-0341
File No. M2016-01284-SC-R3-WC
Filed March 15, 2017
This is a case before the Supreme Court of Tennessee Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel on an appeal filed by the employee, and the dispute was whether the trial court erred in granting the employer’s motion for summary judgment and dismissing the claim.
The employee, Paula Dugger, filed a petition for benefit determination seeking medical and temporary disability benefits. The trial court issued an order denying those requested benefits, as it was determined she was not injured in the course of her employment. Ms. Dugger was injured in an automobile while she was returning home after attempting to travel to a patient’s home to administer care.
Ms. Dugger appealed that decision, and the Appeals Board affirmed the trial court’s findings for two reasons: She was not a traveling employee, and her accident did not fall within any exception to the “coming and going” rule. Her employer, Home Health Care of Middle Tennessee, then moved for summary judgment, and the trial court issued an order granting summary judgment.
The Supreme Court Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel reversed and remanded that decision, finding the unique facts of this case fall within the general exception to the “coming and going” rule. The Court held that the journey itself was clearly a substantial part of the services for which the employee was employed. The employer is in the business of providing in-home nursing care to its patients. Although there was an office where the employee reported, her primary job responsibility consisted of traveling and rendering healthcare to patients in their homes.
An associate with Spicer Rudstrom since 2009, Courtney focuses her practice on automobile liability, insurance coverage litigation, insurance defense litigation, insurance subrogation, premises liability, products liability, and workers’ compensation. She is admitted to practice in all trial and appellate state courts in Tennessee, as well as the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
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