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Morris v. Hermann Forwarding Co.

Decided: April 25, 1955.


On appeal from Superior Court, Appellate Division.

For affirmance -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Oliphant, Wachenfeld and Burling. For reversal -- Justices Heher, Jacobs and Brennan. The opinion of the court was delivered by Burling, J.


This is a workmen's compensation case. The plaintiff's deceased husband, Thomas J. Morris, although designated by the employer as a "Transportation Engineer," was within the category of a traveling salesman. The basis of appeal is a very narrow question, whether the decedent sustained an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment.

The proceeding was initiated by Margaret H. Morris (herein called the plaintiff) against Hermann Forwarding Co., a corporation having its office at New Brunswick, N.J. (hereinafter called the defendant). The chronology of the case is that the Division of Workmen's Compensation entered judgment for the plaintiff; the County Court of Middlesex County on the defendant's appeal entered judgment for the plaintiff; the Superior Court, Appellate Division, reversed; and on the plaintiff's petition certification was allowed by this court. Morris v. Hermann Forwarding Co., 17 N.J. 182 (1955).

The general principles are not in dispute and in hornbook fashion may be stated thusly: ordinarily when an employee is on his way to his regular place of employment or is on his way home therefrom, and sustains injury, such injury does not arise out of and in the course of his employment, Moosebrugger v. Prospect Presbyterian Church, 12 N.J. 212, 214-215 (1953). The relationship of traveling salesmen has provided corollary principles to the austere general proposition hereinabove stated. When employment begins upon leaving home and ends when one returns compensation has been allowed for risks of travel on the highway incurred by such salesmen while engaged in their employment. Compare Rafferty v. Dairymen's League, etc., Ass'n, Inc., 16 N.J. Misc. 363, 367 (Dept. Labor, Workmen's Comp. Bur. 1938).

It has been observed that the purpose of a Workmen's Compensation Act is "* * * 'to shoulder on industry the expense incident to the hazards of industry; to lift from the public the burden to support those incapacitated by industry and to ultimately pass on to the consumers of the products

of industry such expense.' Since industry must carry the burden, there must then be some causal connection between the employment and the injury, or it must have had its origin in some risk incident to or connected with the employment, or have followed from it as a natural consequence. * * *" Glasser v. Youth Shop, 54 So. 2 d 686, 687 (Fla. Sup. Ct. 1951).

This leads to application of these principles to the facts. The facts are not in dispute and may be tersely marshalled as follows:

The plaintiff's deceased husband, Thomas J. Morris (hereinafter called Morris), employed by the defendant for several years principally as a bookkeeper at the defendant's North Brunswick Terminal, for about 12 months preceding his injury had held the position of "Transportation Engineer." In this capacity he solicited new business for the defendant in a specific area, the metropolitan New York area, including the five New York boroughs, and the counties of Bergen, Hudson and (occasionally) Essex, in New Jersey, but not in Middlesex County (where he resided and the defendant's office was maintained). The defendant paid all his travel expenses in his work area, and also, by agreement with him paid his train fare between the railroad station in New Brunswick and his assigned sales district, but not his expenses between his home and the railroad station, in New Brunswick. Morris worked on Thursday evenings and Saturdays as a salesman in a retail store, Fixler's Men's Shop, in New Brunswick, which store had no connection with the defendant.

Morris had no definite hours, occasionally attended dinners and other functions in the evening in his metropolitan New York sales district, and returned to the defendant's office to report from two to four times a month. He settled his accounts (expense accounts) at the office, and stenographic help was available to him there for typing and compilation work when necessary. He collected at the office any data necessary to his work. About once a week an officer of the defendant would phone Morris at his home for discussion of his activities of a week or two weeks.

On the day in question, August 9, 1951, Morris boarded a train for New Brunswick at the Newark railroad station at about 3:15 P.M. He left the train at about 3:45 P.M. at the New Brunswick station. He proceeded about four blocks to Fixler's Men's Shop, arriving there about 4:00 P.M., and spent five to ten ...

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