Pinkus v. Hartford Life Insurance Company

Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-14-00892-CV (November 5, 2015)

Justices Fillmore (Opinion), Stoddart, and O’Neill

Ron Pinkus was in Dallas on a business trip for his employer, but on his way to have dinner with his son, when he was involved in a car accident that claimed his life. The Division of Insurance, Department of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) concluded Pinkus was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the accident, but Hartford, the workers’ comp carrier, filed a petition for review in the trial court. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Hartford, and Pinkus’s widow appealed.

The Dallas Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court and affirmed summary judgment. The Court noted that, under the “continuous coverage” rule, an employee on a business trip for his employer is in the course of his employment while on the trip, even when engaged in activities such as eating and sleeping, “except when a distinct departure on a personal errand is shown.” Therefore, an insurance carrier is not liable for compensation if the injury to an employee arose out of “voluntary participation in an off-duty recreational, social, or athletic activity that did not constitute part of the employee’s work-related duties, unless the activity is a reasonable expectancy of or is expressly or impliedly required by the employment.” The Court held that, because Pinkus traveled 12 miles from his hotel to meet his son at a restaurant conveniently located near his son’s home, Pinkus had made a “distinct departure on a personal errand.”