Eastwood, Jayne and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Eastwood, S.j.a.d.
The sole question on this appeal is whether the injury suffered by the employee arose out of and in the course of his employment.
On December 21, 1951 the employee worked in defendant's tool crib department from 7:30 A.M. until 12:32 P.M., at
which time he finished his duties, washed up and punched out. However, he did not leave the employer's premises, but went downstairs to the first floor where a Christmas party was in progress. The employee asserted, without dispute by the defendant, that he partook of no refreshments at the party. His testimony was that he remained at the party for a length of time because the employer's general manager requested him to await the arrival of some hams which were to be given to the employees as Christmas gifts.
Upon receiving his gift the employee proceeded to leave the plant and in so doing slipped on an outside stairway leading from the plant entrance to the public sidewalk, as a consequence of which he sustained injuries. The deputy director and the County Court, on appeal, 28 N.J. Super. 365, found that the employee sustained compensable injuries as the result of an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment. This appeal stems from the judgment of the County Court.
The appellant contends that the accident is not compensable; that the incident occurred in a manner entirely unconnected with his duties of employment; that the situation here presented does not come within the "mutual benefit" doctrine, the Christmas party being entirely voluntary and not supervised by the employer; that not all employees attended; that all work ceased for the day at 12:30 P.M., and the employees were not paid for the time spent at the affair.
There is testimony that when about three weeks prior to the incident in question the matter of a Christmas party arose, the employees asked the general manager if there would be a party. In response the employer not only granted permission to use the premises, but also paid for the refreshments and gave gifts to the employees. It was further shown that prior to the party, notices had been posted in the plant announcing the event and as disclosed by the following testimony of the general manager, the permission to use the employer's premises for the event and paying the expenses
was in furtherance of labor-management relationship, to wit:
"Q. Worthwhile, in what respect? A. Worthwhile in what respect?
Q. Yes. A. Mr. Rycyk and I had acknowledged the fact the employees -- that naturally, payment for the food, that as far as we were concerned, we are a big family, and what is best for the company would go for all of us, and I made the gesture to the employees since they had been paying their own Christmas party without asking us to pay, ...