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Hoffman v. Industrial Com.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. John C. Layng, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied November 28, 1984.

The claimant, Mary Hoffman, filed a claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) for an injury to her right leg which allegedly arose out of and in the course of her employment with the respondent, the Regional Office of Education, Winnebago-Boone County. The arbitrator's award of benefits was reversed on appeal by the Industrial Commission, which found that the claimant failed to prove that she sustained accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of her employment. The circuit court of Winnebago County reversed the decision of the Commission and reinstated the award of the arbitrator. The court determined that the claimant was a traveling employee and that the Industrial Commission's decision was contrary to law. The respondent appeals.

The claimant is a registered nurse and was employed as director of health services for the respondent for approximately eight months prior to her injury. She supervised and coordinated health services at the elementary and high schools in Boone and Winnebago counties, excluding the schools within Rockford. The claimant worked from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Monday and Friday she worked in the office of the Regional Superintendent in downtown Rockford. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday she serviced the schools in Boone and Winnebago counties. She was required to supply a car for the job.

The claimant testified that on May 15, 1978, she had a conversation with her supervisor, Frank Parrino, and suggested to him that a staff meeting be held at her home. She stated that she planned to have a meal and show health films and that she might need some extra seating space. Mr. Parrino testified that he authorized her to proceed with the meeting. The claimant testified that she had not set a definite date for the staff meeting, although she had discussed it with numerous health clerks.

On May 17, 1978, the date of the injury, the claimant visited the schools west and north of Rockford. After her last stop in Rockton the claimant drove to Rockford and stopped at her home. She arrived home at around 3 p.m. and collected forms mailed to her by health aides in regard to their absences. She was at home for approximately 10 minutes and then drove to the Goldblatt's department store. The store was located approximately five minutes by car from her home in the direction of the regional office. The claimant was planning to finish the day at the office after stopping at Goldblatt's.

The claimant testified that she went to Goldblatt's to buy some red soft-tipped felt pens and a picnic table and benches. The pens were not available, but she did buy the picnic table and benches. As she was walking to the loading dock where the picnic table was located she tripped over a piece of cord and fell, striking her knee on the sidewalk. The claimant was taken to a hospital, where a cast was applied, and she was discharged with crutches. She missed one day of work.

The claimant testified that her purpose for going to Goldblatt's was to buy soft-tipped red felt pens to chart the absences of the health clerks. She stated that the respondent supplied red hard-tipped pens, but that she wanted soft-tipped Flairs. She stated that she had bought these pens before and had not sought reimbursement. June Halvorsen, the administrative assistant to Mr. Parrino, testified that red soft-tipped pens had been available in the office for over four years. However, Mrs. Halvorsen admitted that she did not specifically know whether there were any soft-tipped pens in the office on the day of the claimant's injury. The claimant testified that the picnic table and benches she bought were to be used at the staff meeting for seating. She stated that she was planning on keeping the table and benches for her own use and did not seek reimbursement from the county.

The question on appeal is whether the claimant's injury arose out of and in the course of her employment.

The respondent contends that the claimant was not a "traveling employee" as that term is used because she traveled to the same schools three days every week and not to "distant places and unknown areas." The respondent points out that, in any event, the claimant injured herself after returning to the city of Rockford. The respondent also contends that the claimant's visit to Goldblatt's was purely personal, and that therefore her injury did not arise out of her employment.

The claimant contends that she was a traveling employee and that her status does not change, whether her job takes her across town or around the world. She maintains that since Mr. Parrino authorized a staff meeting at her house, her trip to Goldblatt's was not purely personal and it was foreseeable that she would attempt to obtain additional seating and would purchase pens as necessary. The claimant further maintains that even if her trip to Goldblatt's was purely personal the sidetrip was insubstantial and she is still entitled to compensation.

• 1, 2 Courts> generally regard employees whose work requires them to travel away from their employer's office differently from other employees when determining whether an injury arose out of and in the course of employment. (Wexler & Co. v. Industrial Com. (1972), 52 Ill.2d 506, 510, 288 N.E.2d 420, 421-22.) It is not necessary for an individual to be a traveling salesman or a company representative who covers a large geographic area in order to be considered a "traveling employee." (See Wright v. Industrial Com. (1975), 62 Ill.2d 65, 338 N.E.2d 379.) In the present case, the claimant was a registered nurse and her duties required that she travel to schools outside of Rockford three days per week. We find that she was a traveling employee. The critical inquiry is whether her injury arose out of and in the course of her employment.

• 3, 4 The supreme court has stated that not all accidental injuries are compensable. It has delineated three types of such injuries: (1) those arising out of acts which the employee is instructed to perform by his employer; (2) those arising out of acts which the employee has a statutory or common law duty to perform while performing duties for his employer; and (3) those arising out of acts which the employee might be reasonably expected to perform incident to his assigned duties. (Ace Pest Control, Inc. v. Industrial Com. (1965), 32 Ill.2d 386, 205 N.E.2d 453.) It is apparent from the facts that we are dealing with the third type in the instant case. The court in Ace Pest Control, in holding that the injuries there were of the third type, stated that in order to be compensable they must be "such as might have been reasonably expected or foreseen by [the] employer." 32 Ill.2d 386, 389, 205 N.E.2d 453.

• 5 Thus reasonableness and foreseeability are the touchstones of recovery. While the proposition is easy to state, its application in the ...

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