ARISING OUT OF & IN THE COURSE OF – TRAVELING EMPLOYEE. As the employee did not regularly travel for work and was not traveling away from her regular employment locations at the time of injury, the traveling employee doctrine did not apply to afford workers’ compensation coverage.
ARISING OUT OF & IN THE COURSE OF – GOING TO AND FROM WORK. Substantial evidence supported the compensation judge’s determination that the employee was not between work sites when injured in an automobile accident and therefore the exception to the commuting exclusion did not afford workers’ compensation coverage.
ARISING OUT OF & IN THE COURSE OF – DUAL PURPOSE TRIP. Substantial evidence supported the compensation judge’s determination that the employee was not engaged in a dual purpose trip when injured in an automobile accident and therefore was not in the course of her employment.
Compensation Judge: Stacy P. Bouman
Attorneys: Aaron W. Ferguson, Aaron Ferguson Law, Roseville, Minnesota, for the Appellant. Edward Q. Cassidy, Ashley A. Thronson, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the Respondents.
SEAN M. QUINN, Judge
The employee appeals the decision of a compensation judge that her injury did not arise out of and in the course of her employment. We affirm.
The employee, Mary Jaeger, is a highly trained nurse with an Advanced Practical Registered Nurse degree and a Doctorate in Nursing Practices. She began working for the employer, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, in 2008. In 2013, she began working for the employer's Skin Integrity Team. The Skin Integrity Team’s primary goal is preventing skin injuries to hospital patients. Children's Hospitals comprises two campuses, one in St. Paul and one in Minneapolis. The employee primarily worked at the Saint Paul campus. Occasionally, the employee would have to drive between campuses and was paid mileage for those journeys.
The employee's job on the Skin Integrity Team was full time, five days a week. She was a salaried employee. Her day typically began around 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. and ended around 4:30 p.m. However, the employee would often work past 4:30 p.m. and sometimes as late as 8:00 p.m. to complete her work. Usually, the employee left the hospital after her charting was completed. Occasionally, the employee would do her charting at home, but this did not occur often. Typically, the employee left the hospital campus after making final rounds and checking with the other nursing professionals to make sure that all of the patients’ medical needs were taken care of for the day.
As a member of the Skin Integrity Team, the employee was “on call” every third week. She testified that during their regular working hours, every employee was essentially on call for every patient, but after working hours and on weekends the on-call team member would receive calls and pages and see to it that patients’ needs were attended to. However, it was expected that any employee, as a salaried professional in a very specialized care unit, would respond to an after-hours call or page even if not formally on call.
The employee's supervisor testified that although she was a valued member of the Skin Integrity Team, the employee sometimes had issues with completing charting in a timely fashion. This was also documented in the employee’s performance reviews.
On Friday, August 9, 2015, the employee had completed her rounds and checked with the other nurses to make sure that all of the patients’ needs were satisfied. It was approximately 2:00 p.m. and she decided to leave for the day, saying that she intended to complete her charting at home. As she was walking to her car, she received a phone call from the Minneapolis campus regarding a patient there. Although another member of the Skin Integrity Team was already at the Minneapolis campus, the employee was told that this nurse was occupied. The employee responded to the caller that she would telephone that nurse to see if the nurse could attend to that patient's needs. If that nurse could not, then the employee planned to go to the Minneapolis campus to take care of that patient.
The employee decided not to make the phone call to the other nurse right away because cell reception was poor at the location where her car was parked. Instead, she started her car and drove away heading toward her home. The employee’s usual route home involved driving north on Dale Street in St. Paul, crossing over Interstate 94, and making a left turn on St. Anthony Boulevard. She would then travel one mile westbound on St. Anthony Boulevard and turn right on Lexington Avenue northbound towards her home. However, at the intersection of St. Anthony Boulevard and Lexington Avenue, she could instead continue west, to get onto Interstate 94 and drive towards Minneapolis. The employee planned to stop and park along St. Anthony Boulevard to call the other nurse and decide if she could continue home or should instead go to the Minneapolis campus.
Shortly before arriving at St. Anthony Boulevard, however, the employee was involved in an automobile collision when another driver ran a red light at an intersection. The employee suffered an injury as a result of the collision.
The employee notified the employer of the injury. The employer and insurer denied primary liability, asserting that the car crash occurred only after the employee had left her employment for the day and was en route to her home.
The employee brought a civil action against the at-fault driver and the driver's insurer. The employee later settled this claim and then made a claim for underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits against her own automobile insurer, which was also settled. In a deposition taken as part of the civil litigation, the employee testified the car crash had occurred as she was driving home from work. She never told either automobile insurer that she believed she was engaged in work activities at the time of the car crash. The employee also did not inform the employer and insurer of the civil litigation, as required by Minn. Stat. § 176.061, subd. 8a.
After settling the civil liability and UIM claims, the employee filed a claim petition against the employer and insurer seeking workers’ compensation benefits. At the resulting hearing, the employer and insurer disputed whether the employee’s injury arose out of and in the course of her employment, noting that the employee had completed her workday and was traveling home at the time of the collision. They also disputed the nature and extent of the employee’s injuries.
Following the hearing below, the compensation judge issued a Findings and Order determining that the employee was not working at the time of the car crash and denying the employee’s claims for workers’ compensation benefits. Because the compensation judge did not find the employee’s injuries compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act, she did not make findings regarding the disputed nature and extent of the employee’s injuries.
On appeal, the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals must determine whether “the findings of fact and order [are] clearly erroneous and unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted.” Minn. Stat. § 176.421, subd. 1(3). Substantial evidence supports the findings if, in the context of the entire record, “they are supported by evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate.” Hengemuhle v. Long Prairie Jaycees, 358 N.W.2d 54, 59, 37 W.C.D. 235, 239 (Minn. 1984). Where evidence conflicts or more than one inference may reasonably be drawn from the evidence, the findings are to be affirmed. Id. at 60, 37 W.C.D. at 240. Similarly, findings of fact should not be disturbed, even though the reviewing court might disagree with them, “unless they are clearly erroneous in the sense that they are manifestly contrary to the weight of evidence or not reasonably supported by the evidence as a whole.” Northern States Power Co. v. Lyon Food Prods., Inc., 304 Minn. 196, 201, 229 N.W.2d 521, 524 (1975).
A decision which rests upon the application of a statute or rule to essentially undisputed facts generally involves a question of law which the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals may consider de novo. Krovchuk v. Koch Oil Refinery, 48 W.C.D. 607, 608 (W.C.C.A. 1993), summarily aff’d (Minn. June 3, 1993).
The Workers’ Compensation Act provides compensation for injuries “arising out of and in the course of employment.” Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 16; see also Minn. Stat. § 176.021, subd. 1. As a general rule, injuries incurred in commuting to and from home and the workplace are not compensable. Kahn v. State, Univ. of Minn., 289 N.W.2d 737, 742, 32 W.C.D. 351, 359 (Minn. 1980). There are several exceptions to this general rule, however, including injuries to "traveling employees," to employees engaged in "dual purpose trips," or to those whose home regularly is used as a workplace for the business of the employment and the purpose of the journey was in furtherance of some aspect of the employment that was intended to be performed there. See, generally, 1A Larson, Workmen’s Compensation § 18 et seq.
The employee argues that the compensation judge erred in denying that she was either a “traveling employee,” at the time of her injury, or that the “special place of work doctrine” or the “dual purpose doctrine” apply to the facts of this case. We will address the employee’s arguments in order.
An employee “whose work entails travel away from the employer’s premises is, in those circumstances, under continuous coverage from the time [s]he leaves home until [s]he returns.” Voight v. Rettinger Transp., Inc., 306 N.W.2d 133, 136, 33 W.C.D. 625, 630 (Minn. 1981). Generally, to be covered by this “traveling employee” doctrine, an employee must show that she traveled for her job as a regular or substantial part of her employment. Williams v. Hoyt Constr. Co., 306 Minn. 59, 67, 237 N.W.2d 339, 345 (1975); Howlett v. Midwest Distributors, 202 Minn. 247, 250-51, 277 N.W. 913, 915, 10 W.C.D. 204, 207 (1938). This doctrine has generally been applied to employees who either have no fixed job site, such as traveling salespersons, or whose injuries occurred away from the locations of their regular job sites while on a trip away from their regular employment site that was taken in furtherance of their work duties.
The employee argues that she was a "traveling employee" on the date of the injury simply because she was "traveling" from her regular work location at the employer's St. Paul campus with the intention of going either to the employer’s Minneapolis campus or to work at her home. Under Minnesota case law, an injury sustained during a trip between two job sites is generally compensable; however, that situation is not what is contemplated under the traveling employee doctrine. The employee did not regularly travel for work and was not traveling away from her regular employment locations at the time of injury. The compensation judge properly rejected the employee's claim that her injury was compensable under the traveling employee doctrine.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that an exception to the commuting rule exists when the employee is going between two portions of her work premises. Kahn, 289 N.W.2d at 743, 32 W.C.D. at 360. In Kahn, compensation was awarded to an employee injured on her way home where her home was regularly used as a secondary worksite. In this case, the employee contends that even if she was on the way to her home at the time of the car collision, her stated intention to complete her charting there reflects the status of the home as a secondary worksite, so that an injury during that trip should be held compensable.
Citing Professor Larson, our supreme court in Kahn described two types of circumstances where travel from the employee’s work premises to the employee’s home could be covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act as travel between two job sites. The court wrote:
In some cases, the establishment of the home as a business situs can best be undertaken by demonstrating a clear business use of the home at the end of the specific journey during which the accident occurred. In others, there may be no evidence that on that particular night the claimant was going to perform some particular work; in these cases the evidence must take the form of proof that the regularity of work at home and other factors endow the home with the continuing status of a workplace, so that any going and coming journey is covered.
Kahn, 289 N.W.2d at 743, 32 W.C.D. at 360-61 (citing 1A Larson, Workmen’s Compensation § 18.31 (1978)) (emphasis added).
In this case, there was no evidence that the employee regularly worked at home. Although the employee argues on appeal that she regularly and frequently did charting at home, her own testimony was that this was an infrequent event. (T. 42.) Thus, the compensation judge could reasonably conclude that the employee had not shown that her home constituted a work site by virtue of regular work activities performed there.
The employee argues, however, that at least on this particular day, she planned to perform her charting at home. She contends that her testimony and other evidence as to that intent thus satisfied her burden to show that her journey home that day had a clear business purpose.
It is not disputed that the employee left the St. Paul campus with the clear, stated purpose of going home. While it is true that she stated on that day, and later testified, that she was going to do some charting at home, there was also evidence showing that the employee often claimed she planned to chart at home but in fact did not do so. As the compensation judge noted in her findings, there is also no evidence that the employee did any charting over the course of the entire weekend following the car collision. Moreover, in her deposition testimony taken in the civil litigation, the employee did not advise the insurance companies that she thought of her trip that day as involving any work purpose. Rather, she asserted only that she was simply going home after work. Likewise, she did not notify, as required by statute, the employer and insurer of the pending civil litigation. This evidence further supports the compensation judge’s conclusion that the employee was not planning to work at home on that day.
Ultimately, whether the employee's trip home was in direct furtherance of performing job duties at that destination was a credibility question, since the sole evidence to support that claim was the employee's asserted intent and related testimony. Questions of credibility are committed to the finder of fact, and this court will not overturn a conclusion that rests on a judge's credibility determination unless clearly erroneous. Even v. Kraft, Inc., 445 N.W.2d 831, 835, 42 W.C.D. 220, 225 (Minn. 1989); Northern States Power Co., 304 Minn. at 201, 229 N.W.2d at 524 (1975). Under the evidence in this case, the judge did not commit clear error in concluding that the employee failed to prove a clear business purpose for her trip to her home.
The employee argues that even if she was not going to chart at home, the dual purpose doctrine applies because her destination after leaving the St. Paul campus had not yet been determined and because, ultimately, she might have continued on to the employer's Minneapolis campus to resume work and assist a patient there.
Under the dual purpose doctrine, an “[i]njury during a trip which serves both a business and a personal purpose is within the course of employment if the trip involves the performance of a service for the employer which would have caused the trip to be taken by someone even if it had not coincided with the personal journey.” 1A Larson, Workmen’s Compensation § 18.00 (1978). Our supreme court, in adopting the dual purpose doctrine, noted, however, that the application of the doctrine hinged on whether a personal or business purpose necessitated the trip that resulted in the injury. Although the doctrine applies even where the personal aspect of the trip dominates over the business aspect, if the trip was undertaken for personal reasons and would have taken place even if any business aspect had been cancelled, then the trip is not work-related under the dual purpose doctrine. See Rau v. Crest Fiberglass Indus., 275 Minn. 483, 485-86, 148 N.W.2d 149, 151, 24 W.C.D, 103, 107 (1967); Kayser v. Carson Pirie Scott Co., 203 Minn. 578, 581-82, 282 N.W. 801, 803 (1938).
The employee testified that she started her trip with the intention of going home and that the injury occurred while she was still on the same route she always took to go home. The mere fact that she might later potentially have changed her plans in order to go to the Minneapolis campus did not make the trip work-related at the time the injury took place. The employee had the burden of showing not only that a work purpose had been added, but that the addition of that purpose played a significant role in bringing about the injury. Here, the evidence was clear that, whatever the employee might have intended to do by way of interrupting her commute home to pull over and make a work-related phone call once she crossed over Interstate 94, she was still on her intended route home when the car collision occurred.
Because substantial evidence supports the compensation judge’s Findings and Order, we affirm.
 Following the car crash, the employee did go to the emergency room, but was released later that evening. She returned to work the next Monday, October 12, 2015, and worked the entirety of that week. There was no medical evidence submitted nor testimony to suggest that the employee was physically unable to chart that weekend.