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Daniello v. Machise Express Co.

Decided: March 24, 1972.


Horn, A.j.s.c.


Petitioner appeals from the dismissal of his claim petition by a judge of compensation. Specifically, the judge found that injuries suffered by appellant on September 16, 1969 while in the employ of respondent Machise Express Co. were not sustained in the course of his employment with it as a truck driver.

On September 16, 1969 Daniello, the employee, as usual drove to his place of employment and reported to work at 4:30 A.M., wearing a uniform furnished by himself. There he received his assignment, got into his tractor-trailer truck, which was empty at that time, and drove to the Mobil Oil Company refinery in Paulsboro, New Jersey. He checked in at the gate and then pulled his truck underneath the rack in order to load it with jet fuel. In accordance with the custom at the depot, he loaded his own truck. After arriving at the platform he hooked up the conducting pipe to the trailer tank aperture. The fuel emerged with great force and splashed up, permeating his uniform and body with fumes.

After the tank was filled he sealed it and drove to McGuire Air Force Base, where the fuel was conducted by means of a pipeline into fuel storage tanks. On this particular day he returned to Paulsboro and got another load of the jet fuel. Again, while loading his tank, fumes lodged on his clothing and body.

He then took the second load of fuel back to McGuire Air Force Base and unloaded it in the same manner. When this was completed he returned to the trucking yard of respondent in Hammonton. It was now the end of his working day and, as usual, he refueled his tractor and parked the truck. He then went into the garage, spoke briefly with a fellow employee and told him that he was going home. As there was no necessity for him to check out in any office, and there being no facilities to change clothing or to shower, he got into his car, which was parked in a space in the employer's yard, and drove about 1 1/2 miles to his home.

When he arrived home he parked his car and noticed his eight-year-old son taking some trash out to the backyard to place it in a drum-type incinerator to be burned at a later time. He yelled to his son that he would burn it, since he never allowed his son to burn the trash. He then struck a match and immediately thereafter "exploded." The fire was caused by the match igniting the fumes of jet fuel which had lodged on his clothing and body. As a result of this explosion, his shirt and some other articles of clothing caught fire, causing petitioner to receive injuries for which he sought compensation.

The sole issue presented in this appeal is whether the employee sustained a compensable accident when he was burned. Did this accident arise out of and in the course of his employment?

The judge below denied compensation on the ground that the injuries were caused by an intervening direct force totally unrelated to the employment. He felt, also, that the fact that the injury occurred at the employee's home made the liability of the employer even more remote. He concluded that the risk was not reasonably incidental to the employment.

I disagree with his conclusions. When an injury occurs under prescribed conditions, compensation must be awarded upon broader and more humane rules. To accomplish the purposes for which the compensation law was

enacted, the court will give its provisions the most liberal construction that it will reasonably bear in favor of the injured employee in order to avoid harsh results to the worker and his family. Fantasia v. Hess Oil and Chemical Corp. , 110 N.J. Super. 360 (Cty. Ct. 1970); Silagy v. State , 101 N.J. Super. 455 (Cty. Ct. 1968). The construction given the Workmen's Compensation Act below was unduly restricted.

The standard to be applied in determining whether an accident arose out of and in the course of the worker's employment is always reasonableness. Cavalcante v. Lockheed Electronics Co. , 85 N.J. Super. 320 (Cty. Ct. 1964); aff'd 90 N.J. Super. 243 (App. Div. 1966). The phrase "arising out of and in the course of his employment" in the Workmen's Compensation Act (N.J.S.A. 34:15-1) has been given a broad interpretation, since the act was intended to place the cost of accidental injuries which are work-connected upon employers, who may provide for them as ...

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