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Chisholm-Cohen v. County of Ocean

Decided: March 13, 1989.

ROSEMARIE CHISHOLM-COHEN, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
COUNTY OF OCEAN, DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY SERVICES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from the State of New Jersey, Department of Labor, Division of Workers' Compensation.

Long, Muir, Jr. and Keefe. The opinion of the court was delivered by Keefe, J.s.c. (temporarily assigned).

Keefe

The issue to be decided is whether petitioner Rosemarie Chisholm-Cohen was in the course of her employment with respondent County of Ocean (Ocean) when she sustained injuries resulting from an automobile accident. The Workers' Compensation judge found that she was and Ocean appealed. We reverse.

The facts are not disputed. Petitioner was a training technician with Ocean's Department of Emergency Services. Her job was to provide training for firemen, first aid members, police

officers and emergency management personal. Petitioner's normal hours of work were from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. However, she was also required to attend training sessions three to four nights per week and be on call 24 hours a day for which she carried a pager. She was issued a county owned car for her use and was driving that vehicle at the time of the accident.

On February 7, 1985, the Ocean County Auxiliary Police School was scheduled to have a training class at approximately 7:00 p.m. in petitioner's office located at the Miller Airpark. Her job was to set up the classroom, make coffee and insure that all records were in order. On the evening in question, petitioner left her office to go home and change her clothes. She was not required to leave the office during the period between the end of her normal work day and the night classes. However, since she tended to be a "workaholic," her supervisor encouraged her to go home for a while so that she could see her children, have dinner and "take a break." The automobile accident occurred on Route 530, approximately one-quarter to one-half mile from the intersection of the Miller Airpark access road and Route 530 while she was in route to her home. Petitioner's car was apparently struck head-on by another vehicle which veered into her lane.

We are mindful that the Worker's Compensation Act (Act) is given liberal interpretation "in order to afford a certain remedy." Doe v. St. Michael's Med. Center, Newark, 184 N.J. Super. 1, 4 (App.Div.1982). However, "we may not impute a meaning to the statutory perimeters of employment contrary to the plain language and intent of the legislation." Mahon v. Reilly's Radio Cabs, Inc., 212 N.J. Super. 28, 33 (App.Div.1986). Therefore, our analysis of this case must begin with the statute.

The relevant provisions of the Act as amended in 1979 provide:

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 . . .; 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; but the employment of employee paid travel time by an employer for time spent travelling to and from a job site or of any employee who utilizes an employer authorized vehicle shall commence and terminate with the time spent travelling to and from a job site or the authorized operation of a vehicle on business authorized by the employer. N.J.S.A. 34:15-36.

As we observed in Ehrgott v. Jones, 208 N.J. Super. 393, 397 (App.Div.1986), the 1979 amendment was simply a legislative formulation of the going and coming rule and was designed "to impose upon off-site ...


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