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Garcia v. Wagner's Land Expansion

November 24, 2008

WILLIAM GARCIA, APPELLANT,
v.
WAGNER'S LAND EXPANSION, RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Workers' Compensation, Docket No. 2006-1841.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued November 6, 2008

Before Judges Stern, Waugh and Newman.

Petitioner, William Garcia, appeals from a judgment denying his claim for workers' compensation benefits. The claim was denied because the judge of compensation concluded that his injuries did not arise "in the course" of petitioner's employment. Petitioner was injured while riding in the employer's vehicle being driven by his foreman en route to a bank to cash his pay check. We affirm the "order of dismissal."

For purpose of the appeal, we adopt the statement of facts set forth in petitioner's brief before us:

William Garcia was an employee of Wagner's Land Expansion, working on the company's light landscaping crew. In that role, William Garcia's supervisor was John Southard. On August 12, 2005, at approximately 2:32 p.m., William Garcia was injured in a motor vehicle accident at the intersection of Hopewell Princeton Road and Crusher Road in Hopewell, New Jersey. William Garcia was riding in a Ford F-250 truck owned by Sage Wagner, the president of Wagner's Land Expansion. The vehicle was one which had the company's name on the exterior and which was used specifically for the company's business. His supervisor, John Southard, was driving the vehicle. Mr. Garcia and Mr. Southard were on their way to a job site to assist a different company crew. For that reason, Mr. Garcia had not punched out his timecard before departing with Mr. Southard. On their way from one job site to another, Mr. Southard was driving Mr. Garcia to the Hopewell branch of PNC Bank, where Sage Wagner had previously made arrangements for his employees to be able to cash their checks even if they did not have an account with that bank. Due to their involvement in the accident, Mr. Garcia and Mr. Southard did not ultimately reach the other job site, and the other Wagner's Land Expansion crew needed to work late in order to complete their work. In the motor vehicle crash, William Garcia suffered orthopedic, neurological, and neuropsychiatric injuries to his head, back, and to both of his legs.

[Footnote and transcript references omitted.]*fn1

In finding that the injuries were not compensable, the judge of compensation concluded:

I find that regardless of which story is correct, the fact that Mr. South[a]rd was driving Mr. Garcia on a personal mission to the bank (be it either solely a personal mission as per South[a]rd's claim or a deviation from work travel of a personal nature as Mr. Garcia claims) renders this incident non-compensable as it did not arise out of and in the course of Mr. Garcia's or Mr. South[a]rd's employment.

The map of Hopewell which was admitted as R-1 in evidence on March 12, 2007 clearly shows that a trip to the PNC bank in the Borough of Hopewell was more than a minor deviation from either going to the job site to which Mr. Garcia referred or as Mr. South[a]rd indicated he was just merely going to the bank and was going to return with Mr. Garcia to the job site. The issue of minor deviation from employment is fully discussed by the Supreme Court in Jumpp v. City of Ventnor, 177 N.J. 470 (2003).

The Court held in that case that a deviation where the employee stopped at a post office with his supervisor's permission to pick up his personal mail placed his activities out of the workers' compensation arena in that it was a totally personal situation.

Therefore, I find that Mr. Garcia's accident on August 12, 2005 is ...


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