On Wednesday, the Court of Appeals of Oregon, in McDermed v. City of Eugene, 2012 Ore. App. LEXIS 796 (June 27, 2012), affirmed an award of workers’ compensation benefits to a police lieutenant who sustained injuries when she was struck by a motorist as she walked across the street from her office to get a cup of coffee. Citing Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 2.20, and relying upon past precedent, the court indicated that her injuries arose out of and in the course of the employment.
The court observed that while the bulk of the lieutenant’s duties involved office work, she did occasionally respond to calls, detect and deter crime, direct traffic at incident scenes, and the like. The lieutenant had also been involved with community policing for the majority of her 17 years on the force. Community policing entailed “engaging the community in problem solving strategies to not only react to crime,” but to prevent it. She carried a cell phone provided by the police force and was generally considered on call. The court indicated that the lieutenant did not cease being an on-duty police officer when she left her office and entered the street. While her motivation may have been to buy a cup of coffee, she was still on duty and was obligated to perform community policing functions while she was on the street. The court concluded, therefore, that the Workers’ Compensation Board did not err in determining that the officer’s injuries arose out of her employment–and, more generally, that those injuries were compensable.