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Buerkle v. United Parcel Service

Decided: June 18, 1953.

HAROLD R. BUERKLE, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT



Freund, Stanton and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).

Francis

Appellant was denied compensation by the Workmen's Compensation Division and by the County Court. He charges that these rulings were erroneous.

The identical result in both tribunals carries persuasive but not determinative weight on this appeal because the issue is one of law and not a factual dispute.

Respondent had provided a parking lot for its employees at the rear of the building in which appellant was employed. It follows reasonably that this was done for the mutual advantage of employer and employee. McCrae v. Eastern Aircraft , 137 N.J.L. 244 (Sup. Ct. 1948).

It was customary for Buerkle to ride home from work in the car of a fellow employee, Doherty, which was kept in the parking space.

On the day in question, December 20, 1951, the two men finished their work in the plant, checked out and walked about 25 to 35 feet across the parking lot to Doherty's car. They discovered that it could not be started because the battery was dead. Buerkle then volunteered to go to the building from which they had just come and borrow a battery booster from one of respondent's garage mechanics. He did so and while walking in the parking lot toward the disabled vehicle, he slipped on some ice and fell. As he did, the battery dropped on his left hand and injured it.

The compensation claim was rejected on the theory that the workman's act in obtaining the battery for the accommodation of his fellow employee took him out of the sphere of his employment. With this result we cannot agree.

If Buerkle fell while walking toward the car originally, or if he was struck by another car while doing so, the right to the statutory benefits would be beyond question. McCrae v. Eastern Aircraft, supra. Suppose he had forgotten his hat and returned for it? Would a fall on the way back to the car following the trip to retrieve it require a different result? We think not. But does the fact that the mission for the booster battery was for the immediate benefit of Doherty and for the ultimate purpose of enabling Buerkle and Doherty to depart from the parking place designated by the employer for their use, make the injury non-compensable?

It is not suggested that the battery charger or the act of carrying it was the efficient producing cause of the fall. This cause was the ice on the parking area, certainly an incidental risk of the employment.

An employee does not have to be actually engaged in work for the employer at the time of an accident. Van Note v. Combs , 24 N.J. Super. 529, 533 (App. Div. 1953). If the injury arises out of a risk which is reasonably incidental to the conditions and circumstances of the employment, the requirements for recovery are satisfied. Geltman v.

Reliable Linen & Supply Co. , 128 N.J.L. 443, 446 (E. & A. 1942). It is not necessary that the particular accident or injuries be foreseen. "It is sufficient if they flowed as a rational consequence from a risk connected with the employment." Fenton v. Margate Bridge Co. , 24 N.J. Super. 450, 455 (App. Div. 1953). And the application of these rules to a ...


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