Court Finds Injury Suffered during Coffee Break Compensable

January 15, 2010 ( – A New Jersey appellate court has ruled that injuries a foreman plumber suffered while driving for coffee arose in the course of his employment.

Business Insurance reports that the decision by the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division in Jesse J. Cooper Sr. vs. Barnickel Enterprises Inc. upheld a Division of Workers’ Compensation finding that Cooper suffered 100% disability as a result of a February 2003 auto accident that caused compound fractures in both legs and his left arm. The employer appealed the judgment, arguing that the accident occurred while Cooper was on a personal errand unrelated to his work, irrespective of company authorization to use one of its vehicles.

The court said Cooper, who is an “off-site” employee, could not be expected to stay at a workplace for a period of time with nothing to do, particularly when there was no coffee available at the site. Accidents occurring during coffee breaks for off-site employees are equivalent to those suffered by on-site workers and “are minor deviations from employment which permit recovery of workers’ compensation benefits,” the court ruled, according to Business Insurance.

The accident occurred when Cooper left a union hall where he had gone to discuss an upcoming company project with a union instructor because the instructor was busy teaching a class.