Kansas Court: Travel ‘Intrinsic’ to Oil Field Work, Comp Benefits Apply

By Stephanie K. Jones | June 24, 2014

Kansas highest court reversed a state appeals court finding that an oil field worker was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits after he was injured while riding home from his workplace.

The nature of oil field work, where an employee has no permanent place of employment but must travel from place to place to perform his duties, played into the decision by the Kansas Supreme Court.

David Williams, an oil field worker for Petromark Drilling LLC, was traveling home from his day shift at a drill site, riding in a co-worker’s car, when a rear tire on the vehicle blew out. The car rolled over several times, Williams was ejected from the vehicle and was injured.

The administrative law judge who first heard the case ruled in favor of Williams’ employer, Petromark. Relying on the “going and coming” rule in state statute the ALJ concluded that Williams’ “injuries were not compensable because they did not arise out of and in the course of his employment,” the Supreme Court stated in in its published syllabus.

The ALJ wrote that when the accident occurred, Williams “was not traveling between well sites, and he was not performing any services for his employer or advancing his employer’s interests. He was simply on his way home at the end of the work day.”

Williams then appealed the ALJ’s decision to the state Workers’ Compensation Board, which reversed the finding, stating that Williams’ job demanded that he “travel to ever-changing locations. Travel was inherent to the job. When travel is inherent to or an integral part of the job, the going and coming rule does not apply.”

Unsatisfied with that outcome, Petromark appealed to the state Court of Appeals, which then reversed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Board and found that the “going and coming” rule did apply in Williams’ case.

The Kansas Supreme Court, however, said there was “substantial competent evidence in the record on appeal” to support the Board’s finding that the blowout and Williams’ injuries occurred “during travel intrinsic to his duties for Petromark.”

The Court cited the Board’s explanation that Williams’ job “required that he travel to ever-changing remote drill sites.”

The Court also noted that Williams’ supervisor, with whom Williams regularly rode to and from worksites, “testified at his deposition that Williams would not be employed if he was unwilling to travel to those sites.”

In addition, the Court said, Petromark allowed its employees to choose their method of travel to and from the worksite.

Reversing the decision of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court noted: “The Court of Appeals crossed a line from evaluating this evidence in light of the record as a whole to test whether it supported the Board’s fact finding into ruling as a matter of law on evidence that was, although undisputed, conflicting under the governing statute.”

The case is: David C. Williams v. Petromark Drilling LLC, and Ace Fire Underwriters Ins. Co.

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