On appeal from a final determination of the Division of Workers' Compensation.
Fritz, Brody and Baime. The opinion of the court was delivered by Baime, J.A.D.
[205 NJSuper Page 423] This is an appeal from a final determination of the Division of Workers' Compensation denying petitioner's claim for disability benefits. The sole question presented is whether petitioner was injured in the course of her employment. At issue is whether petitioner may obtain workers' compensation benefits for injuries sustained while returning to her motel room from a restaurant following completion of her off premises employment assigned duties. The compensation judge found that the accident occurred after the conclusion of petitioner's work day and while she was engaged in a purely personal errand. We hold that petitioner was properly denied compensation because she was not engaged in the direct performance of the duties assigned to her by her employer.
The essential facts are not in dispute. Petitioner, a college student, was employed by respondent during the period of her three week Christmas vacation. Apparently, she obtained her job through the recommendation of her close personal friend, Robert Morris, who was employed by respondent as a supervisor. Respondent was in the business of providing investigatory and security services to retail stores. Petitioner's duties consisted of visiting various sites and testing the integrity of store personnel.
Petitioner commenced her employment on January 4, 1981. On that date, she was driven by Morris from her home in Pennsylvania to Rahway, New Jersey where the two registered in separate rooms at the Kings Way Inn. On the following day, petitioner visited various stores and later prepared investigative reports. The same routine was followed on January 6, 1981. Petitioner again proceeded to various stores and returned to the motel at approximately 8:00 p.m. After completing her reports, petitioner was invited by Morris to engage in physical exercise in his room.
At approximately 10:00 p.m., the two concluded their workout. Petitioner then decided to purchase something to eat at a nearby McDonald's restaurant which was located across the highway. As she was leaving, petitioner volunteered to buy food for Morris. Petitioner proceeded to the restaurant and was struck by an automobile on her return trip. Thereafter, she filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits.
We have thoroughly reviewed the record and are in complete agreement with the compensation judge's conclusion that petitioner was not injured in the course of her employment. In our view, that result is clearly mandated by N.J.S.A. 34:15-36 which provides in pertinent part as follows:
Employment shall be deemed to commence when an employee arrives at the employer's place of employment to report for work and shall terminate when the employee leaves the employer's place of employment excluding areas not under the control of the employer; provided, however, when the employee is required by the employer to be away from the employer's place of employment, the employee shall be deemed to be in the course of employment when the
employee is engaged in the direct performance of duties assigned or directed by the employer. . . .
This statute was part of an extensive legislative effort to reform our workers' compensation laws. In a general sense, it was designed to "put significantly more money into the hands of the more seriously injured workers while providing genuine reform and meaningful cost containment for New Jersey employers. . . ." See Joint Statement of the Senate and Assembly Labor, Industry and Professions Committees to S802 and A840 (1979). See also Cressey v. Campus Chefs, Division of CVI Service, Inc., 204 N.J. Super. 337, 341 (App.Div.1985) (slip op. at 3) (A-1653-84T7; October 8, 1985); Nemchick v. Thatcher Glass Mfg. Co., 203 N.J. Super. 137, 139 (App.Div.1985); Ward v. Davidowitz, 191 N.J. Super. 518, 521-522 (App.Div.1983); Gothelf v. Oak Point Dairies of N.J., 184 N.J. Super. 274, 277 (App.Div.1982).
One of the cost saving benefits intended to accrue to employers was "establishing relief from the far-reaching effect of the '[g]oing and [c]oming [r]ule' decisions by defining and limiting the scope of employment." Joint Statement, supra. The "going and coming" rule generally precludes employer liability for injuries sustained during routine travel to and from work. The genesis and history of the rule were discussed in detail in Watson v. Nassau Inn, 74 N.J. 155, 158-160 (1977) and need not be recounted here. Suffice it to say that the rule "was established as a convenient formula for separating work-connected risks from those which are unrelated to employment." Id. at 158-159. See also Gullo v. American Lead Pencil Co., 119 N.J.L. 484, 486 (E. & A. 1938). It is grounded upon the thesis that "'an employee's ordinary, routine day-to-day journey' to and from work at the beginning and at the end of the day neither yields a special benefit to the employer, see Ricciardi v. Aniero ...