Arkansas Truck Driver’s Fatal Injuries Sustained While Crossing Street After Break Are Compensable

An Arkansas tanker-truck driver sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of the employment when he was struck by a vehicle as the truck driver exited a convenience store and attempted to cross a five-lane road to return to his parked truck, held a state appellate court [Razorback Concrete v. Perkins, 2015 Ark. App. 368, 2015 Ark. App. LEXIS 449 (June 3, 2015)]. The court made the determination in spite of the state’s relatively restrictive court rulings that a compensable injury does not include one that is inflicted on an employee at a time when “employment services” are not being performed.

The driver had been dispatched to deliver a load of raw Portland cement to one of the employer’s facilities. He arrived at 6:35 a.m., but the employee responsible for opening the facility had not arrived to open the locks, so the driver drove half a mile to a convenience store. He parked his truck on the shoulder of a five-lane highway across from the store, crossed the road, and purchased a breakfast sandwich and a drink. As he re-crossed the road to return to his truck, he was struck by a vehicle. The driver died a few hours later from his injuries.

Citing earlier precedent, the court indicated that the meaning of “employment services” must be determined within the context of the individual case, employment, and working relationships; generalizations that were “devoid of practical working conditions” should not be made. Here the driver was on paid company time, responsible for his truck during his workday, a half mile away from the employer’s locked and gated facility, and returning to work after his permissible deviation had been completed. The locked gate had prevented the earlier completion of his task. Reasonable minds could conclude, as had the Commission, that walking back to the truck was an act of returning to the driver’s job duties.

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