Civil action. Determination of facts and rule for judgment.
Lockheed Electronics Company (Lockheed) appeals from an award of the statutory compensation benefits to Angela Cavalcante for the death of her husband Richard, pursuant to R.S. 34:15-7. The essential facts are not disputed but the legal issue involved creates what appears to be a case of novel impression in this State.
Decedent was employed as an electronics technician by Lockheed, with his regular place of employment being the Lockheed plant in Plainfield, New Jersey. Prior to April 1962 Lockheed had contracted for certain work, the nature of which is unimportant, at the United States Naval Base in New London, Connecticut. In April 1962 Cavalcante, along with four other Lockheed employees, volunteered to go to New London in order to expedite and clean up this particular project. The job in New London was only a temporary one, expected to last only a week. It was described in the testimony as a "crash program" and "clean up" job. In addition to their normal salary, the men were given an advance allowance to pay for their lodging, meals, laundry and telephone calls. Three men, including the decedent, drove their own
cars and received mileage and toll expenses. Decedent was in charge of this work team.
The men left Plainfield on Monday, April 23, 1962, and arrived in New London at about 4:30 that afternoon. After checking into a motel the men changed clothing and went over to the naval base to work, eating on the way. They worked that night from 6 P.M. until approximately 2 A.M. Tuesday morning. On Tuesday they worked from about 9 or 9:30 A.M. until 1:30 A.M. on Wednesday, except for time off for food. On Wednesday, April 25, 1962, they worked from about 9 or 9:30 A.M. until 6 P.M. They all had dinner in a nearby restaurant and then all returned to their motel at about 8:30 P.M. After showering and making telephone calls to their wives, they all decided to "go out and see what New London was like," arriving in town at about 10 P.M.
When they arrived in New London they went to an establishment called the Seven Brothers Restaurant. This is "a bar and a restaurant and dance hall." They were "drinking beer, listening to the music and talking over our work and what had to be done, what was left to be done and what we had accomplished so far." It was also established below that they were dancing and drinking scotch and sodas, decedent included. At 11:30 P.M. the decedent had a hamburger and coffee. When the Seven Brothers closed at midnight, the five men left and stood outside on the sidewalk, smoking and continuing their conversation, until about 12:30 A.M. on Thursday, April 26, 1962. Then they got into the decedent's car in which they had come to town, and started on the fatal journey toward their motel. The car went off the road when the decedent failed to negotiate a hidden curve in the road. As a result of this accident, Cavalcante died. The Division of Workmen's Compensation found that this accident arose out of and in the course of decedent's employment and made the award to the petitioner-wife which is the subject of this appeal.
In its appeal Lockheed argues strenuously that decedent's accident and death did not arise out of and in the course of
his employment, that there was no causal connection between the conditions of the work and the resulting injury, and that the injury did not have its origin in a risk connected with the employment, nor did it flow from that source as a natural consequence. It contends that Cavalcante's death did not occur as a result of an accident while driving to or from the naval base at Lockheed's expense. Cf. Filson v. Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc. , 82 N.J. Super. 185 (App. Div. 1964). Nor did it occur while he was returning to his motel after having dinner at a restaurant while away from home on his employer's business. Cf. Robinson v. Federal Telephone and Radio Corp. , 44 N.J. Super. 294 (App. Div. 1957). It contends that the outermost limits of coverage for the traveling employee were established in Robinson , where the Appellate Division said:
"'* * * Where service to an employer imposes the need for travel there must be reasonably included within the scope of the employment the performance of such acts as are reasonably necessary to serve the basic subsistence needs of the employee.'" (at p. 299)
Lockheed argues that the acts of the decedent and his associates in the present case were not reasonably necessary to serve their basic subsistence needs, and that in fact the decedent had finished his work for the day, had had his evening meal, and from that time on his time was his own, just as if he had finished a long overtime session at the Plainfield plant at home. It contends that the evening trip from its start to its unfortunate finish was clearly an abandonment of and departure from the employment on a ...