ATTORNEYS SPECIALIZING IN THIS AREA

James M. Straub

Recent News

Michigan Court of Appeals confirms validity of "traveling employee" doctrine in Worker's Compensation cases

In Bowman v RL Coolsaet Constr Co, ___ Mich App ___; ___ NW2d ___ (2006), the Michigan Court of Appeals adopted the "traveling employee" doctrine first recognized in Eversman v Concrete Cutting & Breaking, 224 Mich App 221; 568 NW2d 387 (1997), rev’d 463 Mich 86 (2000).

The Worker’s Disability Compensation Act, MCL 418.101 et seq., provides that an employee who suffers a disabling personal injury "arising out of and in the course of employment" is entitled to compensation. Nonetheless, injuries sustained by an employee while going to or coming from work are generally not compensable under the Act. Bowman, supra, slip op at 2. Under the "traveling employee" doctrine exception to this general rule, "employees who are traveling on a business trip are considered to be continuously within the scope of their employment for the duration of the business trip, except when a distinct departure on a personal errand is shown." Bowman, supra, slip op at 2-3, quoting 2 Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 25.01, pp 25-1-25-2. Such an employee who is injured while traveling to or coming from work while on a business trip is, under the "traveling employee" doctrine, entitled to recover worker’s compensation benefits. Bowman, supra, slip op at 3. 

The Court of Appeals in Bowman recognized that the Michigan Supreme Court in Eversman had the opportunity to explicitly repudiate the "traveling employee" doctrine, but did not do so. The Court of Appeals stated in pertinent part:

Because we are persuaded by the reasoning of this Court in adopting the "traveling employee" doctrine in Eversman, we again adopt the "traveling employee" doctrine and confirm the viability of the doctrine in Michigan. In so doing, we observe that the majority of jurisdictions have held that employees whose work entails travel away from the employer’s premises are continuously within the scope of their employment during the trip and that employees who are injured during the course of a business trip can therefore recover worker’ s compensation benefits, except when a distinct departure on a personal errand is shown. 2 Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 25.01, pp 25-1-25-2. We further observe that in Nock v M & G Convoy, Inc (On Remand), 204 Mich App 116, 120; 514 NW2d 200 (1994), this Court expressed its agreement "with the general rule that, in many situations, injuries incurred during overnight travel should be treated differently from other injuries." We agree with the reasoning in our opinion in Eversman, the majority of the jurisdictions, and our opinion in Nock that it makes sense to treat an employee, who is traveling for work for the benefit, and at the behest of, their employer, differently from an employee who works at a fixed location and is not required to travel to perform their work duties. This is particularly true in light of MCL 418.301(3) and our Supreme Court’s decision in Eversman, which both limit an employee’s ability to recover worker’s compensation benefits if an employee, even a traveling employee, is injured in an activity that is primarily social or recreational in nature. Adopting the "traveling employee" doctrine as set forth in our opinion in Eversman, and as limited by MCL 418.301(3) and our Supreme Court’s decision in Eversman, reasonably accommodates the unique circumstances faced by employees who must travel on a business trip to perform their work, yet also protects employers from compensating employees for injuries that were incurred on a business trip but during an activity which was primarily social or recreational in nature, or amounted to a distinct departure for a personal errand.


Bowman, supra , slip op at 4.

The employer in Bowman has filed an application for leave to appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court. back to top