Summary Judgment and the “Coming and Going” Doctrine: It’s Complicated

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Injuries occurring during an ordinary commute to and from work are not compensable under the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act. The “coming and going” doctrine has always required in in-depth factual analysis for each case to determine if any exceptions to this doctrine apply. The Court of Appeals recently decided what should be considered a factual or legal determination in the context of a summary judgment decision on this issue. Calvo v. Montgomery Cty., No. 48, SEPT. TERM, 2017, 2018 WL 2296349 (Md. May 21, 2018).

In Calvo, a county bus driver was required to attend an annual training on a day she normally did not work. Calvo was not compensated for this travel and it was not out-of-town travel. When driving to that training she was involved in a motor vehicle accident and ultimately filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. After a hearing on the merits of the claim, the Workers’ Compensation Commission found that Calvo’s injury was compensable.

On appeal to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, summary judgment was granted in favor of the County. The Circuit Court found that Calvo was not a traveling employee and that the special mission exception to the going and coming rule did not apply. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed this decision on appeal.

When the case was brought before the Court of Appeals, Calvo argued that the issue was a factual determination and the Circuit Court should not have granted summary judgment on a factual determination. The County argued that the going and coming rule and the exceptions were legal determinations appropriate for summary judgment.

The Court of Appeals concluded that Calvo was not a traveling employee given the nature of the training and the distance from her usual work. The Court of Appeals also considered the factual nuances related to the special mission exception and found that the jury could have found that the exception applied to this case. The Court highlighted the infrequent nature of the training and the fact that it occurred on a day the Claimant did not usually work to be factors that may sway a jury. Therefore, while the Court of Appeals did not make a compensability determination, the ruling found the Circuit Court’s summary judgment decision improper given the factual questions in the case. Interestingly, three Justices dissented finding that there was no factual question in dispute and they would have affirmed the summary judgment decision. This well-reasoned dissent highlights how difficult it can be to separate if there are factual disputes in play in your case.

The question will now be remanded for a jury to decide if this case is in fact compensable under Maryland law. We will continue to monitor this claim to see if any further guiding law is generated out of this set of facts.

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