Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Prison Guard Hurt While Helping at Accident Scene Held Not Entitled to Workers’ Compensation
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A correctional officer who was injured after he stopped while on his way to work to help at an accident scene is not entitled to worker’s compensation benefits, the Third Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
The court affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, which found that Ryan Pettigrew was not acting within the course and scope of his employment when he was injured. The WCAB said that Pettigrew was not a peace officer and his job duties did not require him to stop and render aid.
Pettigrew is employed as a state correctional officer at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California Medical Facility.
His job, the WCAB found, is to provide for the safety and security of people in the prison, including fellow officers, inmates, and medical staff. The board found he has no job duties outside the prison, although he took an oath to protect and serve the public, as well as protect and serve correctional officers and inmates at the job.
Early one morning while Pettigrew was driving to work, he stopped to help police officers at the scene of a multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 80. While he was helping an injured person, an oncoming car hit a parked truck, which struck him, throwing him into the air until he landed on the other side of the freeway.
Pettigrew filed for workers’ compensation benefits for the injury. The Department of Industrial Relations, worker’s compensation judge and Worker’s Compensation Appeals Board all ruled against him.
Pettigrew argued his injury arose out of and in the course of employment, even though he was off-duty at the time it occurred. He also argued that he reasonably believed his employer impliedly, if not expressly, permitted him to respond to the accident and assist injured parties.
Pettigrew cited the Ethics Cadet Workbook, which contains a correctional worker’s code of ethics, stating in part, “my primary concern is to serve mankind to be ever mindful of the responsibilities entrusted in me by my fellow citizens to protect the lives of those placed in my charge to safeguard the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder.”
But Justice Harry Hull, writing for the Court of Appeal, said:
“[T]he fact that the law enforcement code of ethics for correctional officers speaks of a duty to serve humankind and safeguard lives and property does not confer authority on a correctional officer to act outside the scope of his statutory jurisdiction.”
Hull said that the case fell within the general rule that:
“[A]n employee going to and coming from his place of employment is not rendering any service to the employer, and therefore injuries occurring during the commute do not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.”
Hull noted that:
“[T]he workers’ compensation law specifically grants certain compensation and benefit rights to off-duty police officers, but its definition of such officers excludes correctional officers such as Pettigrew.”
Presiding Justice Arthur G. Scotland and Justice Vance W. Raye concurred in the opinion.
The case is Pettigrew v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, 06 SOS 5189.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company