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School Bus Driver’s Injury After Cleaning School Bus At Home Was Covered Under Comp

By on April 9, 2013 in Compensability with 0 Comments

Walesca Benvenutti worked for Scholastic Bus Company as a school bus driver.  She drove children to school in the morning and then drove them home in the afternoon.  She was required to clean the bus interior and inspect the seatbelts after each run.  The testimony of both petitioner and her employer was that there was no specific time that she had to clean the bus.  The employer confirmed that she was permitted to clean the bus off-premises and was paid additional money to clean the bus interior.

On June 9, 2010, petitioner parked the bus in front of her house after her morning run.  Before she exited the bus, she said she swept the bus and inspected the seat belts.  She testified that she tripped over a piece of rubber mat and fell while exiting the bus, sustaining injuries.  The respondent denied the claim because petitioner had prepared a handwritten statement three days after the incident occurred in which she never mentioned that she was cleaning the bus before she fell.

Petitioner testified at trial that when she wrote the handwritten statement, she was principally concerned about informing her employer that she had fallen and broken her ankle.  She said it did not occur to her at the time to inform her employer that she had just cleaned the bus.

The Judge of Compensation reviewed the testimony of the various witnesses and noted that two of the employer’s witnesses admitted that petitioner was permitted to sweep the bus at home. The judge also noted that it was a job requirement that petitioner clean the bus between runs during the day.  The judge found petitioner’s testimony to be credible and ruled in favor of compensability.

 The Appellate Division affirmed and stated, “The definition of ‘employment’ under the statute is multi-faceted, and includes situations in which the employee is physically away from the employer’s premises but nevertheless is ‘engaged in the direct performance of duties assigned or directed by the employer.’” N.J.S.A. 34:15-36.

The Court said that “Courts must bear in mind that ‘the language of the [Act] must be liberally construed in favor of employees.’” Cannuscio v. Claridge Hotel, 319 N.J. Super. 342, 349 (App. Div. 1999).  The Court ruled that as long as the employee is engaged in the direct performance of assigned duties, it does not make a difference whether the duties are performed on or off the work premises.  The case can be found at Benvenutti v. Scholastic Bus Company, A-3732-11T1 (App.Div.April 4, 2013).

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This blog article was researched and written by John H. Geaney, a member of the executive committee and equity partner at the law firm of Capehart Scatchard. The content of the this article is intended to provide general information on the topic presented, and is offered with the understanding that the author is not rendering any legal or professional services or advice. This article is not a substitute for legal advice. Should you require such services, retain competent legal counsel.

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About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, 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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