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ANNAPOLIS, Md.—A court bailiff who went home during his shift to change his tie cannot receive workers compensation for a car crash that happened as he returned to work, a Maryland appellate court has ruled.
Scott Garrity was a part-time bailiff at the Baltimore City District Court. He arrived at work one day in June 2006, and "realized he was wearing a Christmas tie," according to court records. The court's dress code requires bailiffs to wear a light or dark blue tie at work, according to Mr. Garrity's testimony.
After he spilled coffee on his shirt and tie later that morning, Mr. Garrity went home to change his clothes. A truck collided head-on with Mr. Garrity's vehicle as he drove back to work that morning.
The accident caused Mr. Garrity to be hospitalized for a month, and he “suffered serious injuries," court records show. He applied for workers comp benefits because he said he was required to change his clothes for work, and because he was driving back to the courthouse at the time of his accident.
Maryland's Workers' Compensation Commission granted benefits to Mr. Garrity. However, the Circuit Court for Baltimore County reversed the commission's decision, partly because Mr. Garrity did not receive a supervisor's permission to leave work.
The circuit court also ruled that Mr. Garrity's tie-changing commute fell under the state's "going and coming rule" for workers comp, which typically excludes benefits for workers who are leaving or returning to their place of employment.
Maryland's Court of Special Appeals unanimously upheld the circuit court decision Thursday. It said that the "going and coming rule" allows exceptions for employer-directed "special mission(s)," and injuries suffered during "personal comfort" breaks.
However, the court found that Mr. Garrity's tie-change break did not meet the criteria for those exceptions, which would have allowed him to receive comp benefits.
"Appellant's supervisor did not encourage or implicitly accept the fact that bailiffs conducted unauthorized errands in which appellant and the other bailiffs would attend to their personal comforts. Notwithstanding, any benefit derived from appellant's errand was not the mutual benefit envisioned by” previous case law, the ruling reads. "Moreover, it was not reasonable to assume appellant's employer could have known he was attending to a personal comfort at his house. Thus, we must conclude that the personal comfort exception does not make appellant's injury compensable."