The “dual purpose” doctrine arises in the Workers’ Compensation arena when an employee is injured while traveling for both a personal and a business purpose. The first state to recognize this doctrine and find injuries sustained during “dual purpose” travel compensable was New York in 1929. A few other jurisdictions have followed suit. The Ohio Supreme Court, in Cardwell v. Industrial Commission of Ohio (1951), implicitly rejected the dual purpose doctrine when it denied the compensability of injuries received while Mr. Cardwell was traveling from a private gathering to his employer’s place of business, with an intermediate stop at home to pick up the keys that he needed to complete his assigned daily task of turning on the outside lights at dusk.
On October 21, 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court, in Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Association of Mid-Ohio, explicitly and emphatically stated that “the doctrine of dual intent or dual purpose is not applicable when determining eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.” As an employee of the Visiting Nurse Association, Ms. Friebel would be called out from her home to visit patients at their residence. On the day in question, while traveling from her home to that of a patient, she planned on dropping off members of her family at a shopping mall that was located on the route that she was taking to the patient’s house. The accident occurred just prior to Ms. Friebel turning into the mall parking area.
Ms. Friebel filed a Workers' Compensation claim and argued that as long as her intent for the trip was to complete her employment duties, the additional personal reason should not bar compensability. The Richland County Court of Appeals agreed and entered judgment as a matter of law in favor of nurse Friebel under the dual purpose doctrine.
The Ohio Supreme Court reversed, and in so doing stated that the employee’s subjective intent regarding the purpose of her travel is not determinative of whether the injury occurred in the course of and arising out of her employment. The Court was unwilling to delve into the personal intentions of the injured worker, but rather analyzed compensability around the core questions of: (1) whether the time, place and circumstances of the injury demonstrated that it occurred in the course of employment; and (2) whether, under the totality of the circumstances, there was sufficient causal connection between the injury and the employment to establish that the injury arose out of the employment.
While the Court determined that the dual purpose doctrine did not apply in Ohio, Ms. Friebel’s injuries are still in limbo as to compensability -- the case was remanded back to the trial court for trial by jury under the two-part compensability analysis mentioned above that is common to most off-premises injuries. The “take-away” for Ohio employers is that off-premises injuries should be carefully reviewed on a case-by-case basis and without forgetting the “coming and going” rule covering those workers who have not started, or have already completed, their work day.