Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. // Florida Workers’ Compensation — Compensability of Accidents During Lunch Break

IMG_2410-207x300Our client, a construction site supervisor, was injured off-premises at the end of his lunch break. The beginning and end of lunch were signaled by a loud horn. He and his brother traveled by car to a nearby 7-11 to purchase lunch items. They returned to the area near the worksite to eat lunch in the parked car. When the return-to-work horn sounded, our client went to the trunk of his car to retrieve his hard hat and safety harness. As he was standing there, the car behind him was struck from behind by another vehicle and pushed into him, causing him to be crushed between that vehicle and his own. He sustained significant injuries requiring a one-week stay in Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

Initially, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier balked at accepting compensability of the injury. Its position was that since the accident happened offsite during a lunch break, it did not arise out of and in the course and scope of our client’s employment. After studying the case law and gathering more facts, the carrier reversed course.

For an injury to be compensable under Florida’s workers’ compensation system, it must arise out of and in the course and scope of one’s employment. The indicia for making this determination was articulated by the Florida Supreme Court in Fidelity & Casualty Co. of New York v. Moore, 143 Fla. 103, 196 So. 495, 496 (1940):

“[1] there must be some causal connection between the injury and the employment or [2] it must have had its origin in some risk incidental to or connected with the employment or that [3] it flowed from it as a natural consequence. Another definition widely approved is that [4] the injury must occur within the period of the employment, at a place where the employee may reasonably be, and while he is reasonably fulfilling the duties of his employment or engaged in doing something incidental to it.”

In Johns v. State of Florida, Dept. of Health, 485 So. 2d 857 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986), the claimant was assaulted in the lobby of her place of employment 20 to 30 minutes prior to the beginning of her shift. She sued her employer for negligence, positing that she was not within the course and scope of her employment when the assault occurred. On a motion for summary judgment, the trial court disagreed. The order of the trial court was affirmed on appeal.

In support of its opinion, the First DCA noted that appellant customarily arrived 20-30 minutes early to avoid being late, that the lobby was normally used by employees, and she had no personal reason for being there. The court distinguished these circumstances from those in Aloff v. Neff-Harmon, Inc., 463 So.2d 291 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984), a case in which the appeals court reversed a summary judgment for the employer where the employee stayed several hours after the closing of a bar where she was a waitress to discuss primarily personal matters with her employer.

In my estimation, our case more closely approximates the Johns case and qualifies under most if not all of the criteria articulated in the Moore case. Apparently, the carrier feels the same way.

These cases are especially fact sensitive and there is plenty of case law on the subject.


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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.

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