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Court Rejects “On Call” Status As Justification For Alleged Work-Related Injury In Museum

By on May 2, 2017 in Court Rulings with 0 Comments

Bo Liu worked for 4D Security Solutions, Inc. as an engineer.  He was sent to test the company’s hardware and software at an army base in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He worked alone on the base and after hours he would upload data to 4D in the United States using a company-issued Blackberry.  One of his job requirements was to respond to inquiries from 4D’s employees in the United States.

Not long after his arrival in the UAE, Liu decided to visit a local museum because he had no “field work” to do on Friday, December 2, 2011.  He was “on call” in the event that an employee in the United States might need assistance.  He took his Blackberry with him while touring the museum.  He testified that he visited the museum because he felt he needed to get to know the people and the culture he was working in.  He did not recall getting any messages from the United States while he was there.  After two hours in the museum, he fell and underwent surgery in the UAE.  He filed a claim petition for workers’ compensation benefits.

The Judge of Compensation dismissed the petition because N.J.S.A. 34:15-36 provides that one who is on a special mission is only covered when performing the duties assigned or directed by the employer.  Liu was merely touring a museum when he fell.  On appeal, Liu raised two arguments for the first time: namely that he was “on call” and therefore working while in the museum, and secondly that he was covered because of the “mutual benefit” doctrine.

The Appellate Division noted that the only cases supporting petitioner regarding the “on-call” argument were pre-1979 decisions.  The Court noted that the 1979 Amendments were designed to limit compensation to accidents occurring “when the employee is engaged in the direct performance of duties assigned or directed by the employer.”  The Court observed that there was no evidence that US employees were trying to reach Liu while he was in the museum.

As for the “mutual benefit” doctrine, the Court commented that Liu failed to raise this issue below but even so, the Court said that there is no post-1979 decision that has applied this doctrine.  The Court also said, “More importantly, Liu’s personal belief that a museum visit would help him understand the UAE’s history and culture so he could work better with those around him falls far short of demonstrating 4D would necessarily derive any tangible benefit from the museum visit.”

For these reasons the Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of this case.  This case can be found at Liu v. 4D Security Solutions, Inc., A-3591-15T1 (App. Div. May 1, 2017).

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John H. Geaney

About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, an executive committee member and shareholder with Capehart Scatchard, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.

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