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Court rules comp benefits apply to worker on leave

Posted On: Mar. 29, 2007 12:00 AM CST

ATLANTA--The family of a worker who was killed in a traffic accident while on leave is entitled to workers compensation benefits under Georgia's "continuance employment" doctrine, a divided Georgia Supreme Court has ruled.

In the case, Ray Bell Construction Co. had provided Florida resident Howard King a vehicle and an apartment while he worked on a company project in Jackson, Ga.

While on leave to attend to personal business in August 2002, Mr. King traveled to Tennessee and back to Georgia, where he used his company truck to haul personal belongings to a storage facility. On his way back from the storage unit to either his apartment or work site, Mr. King was killed in a traffic accident.

Mr. King's ex-wife sought dependency benefits for the Kings' son. But Ray Bell and its workers comp insurer, St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co., denied the claim, arguing that Mr. King's death did not arise out of and in the course of his continuous employment.

In its ruling Monday in Ray Bell Construction Co. et al. vs. King, the Georgia Supreme Court decided in a 4-3 opinion to uphold decisions of two lower courts to award the benefits to Ms. King.

The court's majority determined that Mr. King was killed after he had completed his personal business and had returned to his continuous employment duties as a traveling employee. Mr. King was in continuous employment with Ray Bell when he was within the general proximity of his worksite or his company-provided housing, the majority ruled.

But the dissenting justices argued that Mr. King was off duty and still on leave when he was killed. Under those circumstances, his injuries "did not arise in the course of or out of his employment as a matter of law," the dissenting justices stated in their opinion.