To The Point Blog

Ohio Supreme Court Rules on the Doctrine of Dual Intent

Nov 25, 2014

The Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled that the Doctrine of “Dual Intent” or “Dual Purpose” for purposes of determining workers’ compensation eligibility is not applicable in Ohio.  In Friebel v. Visiting Nurse Association of Mid-Ohio, an employee was working as a visiting nurse.  Her employer paid for travel time and mileage from her residence to her first patient’s home, as well as travel throughout the day and her return home when working on the weekend.  On weekdays, mileage to and from the employee’s home was deducted from her expenses.

On Saturday, January 22, 2001, the employee was expected to travel from her home to her first patient.  She decided to transport her daughter, son, and two friends to a mall on her way to the first patient’s home.  While stopped at a traffic light before dropping her passengers off, her car was hit from behind.  She filed a workers’ compensation claim seeking coverage for a neck sprain.

There was much uncertainty among the agencies and courts as to what the proper outcome should be here.  The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation initially allowed the claim.  An Industrial Commission District Hearing Officer denied the claim.  An Industrial Commission Staff Hearing Officer reversed that ruling and allowed the claim.  The employer then appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, and was granted summary judgment (i.e., judgment without trial) in favor of the employer.  The trial court concluded there was no dispute the employee was on a personal errand at the time she was injured, and that the payment of travel time and mileage on the weekends was “immaterial” because the employee was traveling to a mall at the time and not to work.  The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, holding that the accident arose out of and in the course of the employee’s employment.  The Court of Appeals found that even though the employee intended to drop passengers off at the mall she had the “dual intent” to travel to her patient’s home and that when she was injured she had not yet diverted from that path.  The Supreme Court of Ohio accepted the appeal in part because of the Court of Appeals’ discussion of the dual intent doctrine. 

What is a Compensable Workers’ Compensation Claim in Ohio?

To have a compensable workers’ compensation claim in Ohio, the injury must have occurred “in the course of” and “arising out of” the injured worker’s employment.  These phrases mean different things.  “In the course of” relates to the time, place, and circumstances of the injury such as an injury while performing a required work task or consistent with contract for hire, logically related to employer’s business.,  “Arising out of” refers to the causal connection between the employment and the injury taking into consideration  proximity of the scene of the accident, degree of control of the employer over the scene, and the benefit the employer received from the employee’s presence at the scene.  These phrases set forth two different requirements that must be met for one to have a compensable workers’ compensation claim. 

. . .The Dual Intent/Dual Purpose Doctrine Rejection by The Supreme Court of Ohio

The Supreme Court of Ohio rejected the application of the dual intent doctrine, finding that the Court of Appeals erred in discussing the dual intent of the employee in the Friebel case.  The Supreme Court essentially found the adoption of the doctrine to be unnecessary, holding that even when employees are traveling for both personal and employment purposes one must simply apply the “in the course of” and “arising out of” tests to determine if a claim is compensable.  It found that the courts failed to apply these tests properly and therefore remanded the same to the trial court. 

The Supreme Court also concluded that because the application of these tests are fact intensive and based on the circumstances of each individual case, the matter should be tried to a jury or a judge as a finder of fact.

Final Outcome?

Assuming the Friebel case does not settle, there will now be a trial to determine whether the employee is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  It is possible the jury will conclude the same as the trial judge and find that the claim is not compensable, but one factor the jury may consider is whether her accident would have occurred whether or not she was dropping her kids and friends off at the mall while on her way to work. 

We will monitor this case and, if there is anything further to report, we will update you.  If you would like to discuss the particulars of this case in the meantime, please contact Clint Zollinger at (330) 458-2030 or via email at rczollinger@dayketterer.com, or your Day Ketterer Education Law Attorney

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for any purpose. This blog is not intended to present an exhaustive summary of all applicable laws, or to take the place of legal advice.  If you have any questions regarding the law, please contact us for assistance.