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Prince George's County v. Proctor

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

July 26, 2016

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MARYLAND
v.
MELVIN PROCTOR

          Graeff, Leahy, Kenney, James A., III (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

          OPINION

          LEAHY, J.

         On his day off work, Prince George's County police detective Melvin Proctor (Appellee) was injured when he jumped to the side to avoid knocking over his two-year old son as he and his family were walking out the front door of their home. On December 14, 2012, Det. Proctor filed a claim with the Workers' Compensation Commission ("WCC") contending he was injured while on call and performing a special errand incident to his employment because he left his home with the intention of picking up his assigned police cruiser from the county fleet maintenance facility that day. On December 27, 2012, the Prince George's County Executive and County Council ("Appellant, " the "County"), acting in their capacity as employer and insurer, filed a statement of contesting issues with the WCC. The County maintained that Det. Proctor's injuries did not arise out of the course of his employment and were non-compensable.

         On May 29, 2013, the WCC disallowed Det. Proctor's claim. After a hearing on judicial review in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, the court entered its memorandum opinion and order on January 15, 2015, reversing the WCC's decision. The County filed a notice of appeal to this Court on February 6, 2015. The County presents just one issue: "[w]hether the circuit court erred when it determined that Appellee's injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment."

         Considering the "'time, place, and circumstances of the accident in relation to the employment, '" State v. Okafor, 225 Md.App. 279, 286 (2015) (citation omitted), we agree with the WCC's determination that Det. Proctor's injury "did not arise out of and in the course of employment as alleged to have occurred on September 17, 2012[, ]" where it occurred on his own front porch, while he was off duty, and before embarking on any task incident to his employment as a police officer. Accordingly, in a situation in which Det. Proctor's injuries arose prior to embarking on any work-related journey, the "going and coming" rule is not what bars Det. Proctor's claim, and we need not address the exceptions to the "going and coming" rule. We hold that the circuit court erred in its determination that, under the facts of this case, the positional-risk test necessitated overruling the decision of the WCC.

         BACKGROUND

         On the date of injury, September 17, 2012, Det. Proctor was employed by the Prince George's County Police Department as a detective with the robbery suppression team.[1]Det. Proctor was on vacation the week preceding the injury, and during this time his assigned police cruiser was at the County's automotive repair facility for scheduled maintenance. Det. Proctor was not scheduled to return to work until Wednesday, September 19; however, on Monday, September 17, he called fleet maintenance to determine whether his vehicle was ready for pick-up.

         According to his testimony before the WCC, when Det. Proctor was informed that his cruiser was ready, he asked his wife to drop him off so he could pick up the cruiser. Det. Proctor was injured as he exited his home. Describing the accident to the WCC, Det. Proctor stated:

I walked out the front door with my wife and kids. My two year-old-son -- we were stepping off the front porch -- he inadvertently stepped in front of me. I looked down.
Instead of knocking him off the front porch, I jumped to the side to avoid knocking him off the front porch and rolled my ankle, tore ligaments on the inside and outside of my ankle, and sprained my knee.

         On December 14, 2012, Det. Proctor filed a claim for worker's compensation benefits with the WCC, which the County contested. The WCC hearing was held on May 14, 2013. Before the WCC Commissioner, Det. Proctor testified that, as a member of the robbery suppression team, he worked a normal schedule but was on call during off hours. Det. Proctor related:

We have a three man rotation with primary, secondary and back-up. If a robbery goes out after hours, which, literally between 24 hours a day, we're called in. The primary goes in, he assesses the situation, he makes a notification to the supervisor, the sergeant, or myself by county cell phone.
All members of my squad are issued County cell phones.
Once we're notified of the robbery, then we assess how much support, manpower is needed. Oftentimes, it depends on the gravity of the situation, when there's a shooting involved, the whole squad wouldn't be called in. Even though they're not on the checkout/call-out sheet. By doing that, we have to have our county cruisers and be available to respond in.
We were required to get our cruisers back as soon as possible by the County fleet maintenance system, because . . . there's only a limited number of spaces on the lots . . . the County mandates that once our cruisers are done, to make sure we pick them up in a timely manner.
Secondly, I need[ed] my cruiser because I had switched out call-out days with another detective for my being on vacation the previous week. So I was up, I believe, it's No. 2 on the call-out list.

         Det. Proctor argued that the accident should be compensable as occurring during a "special errand" because Det. Proctor was on call and needed to have his county vehicle to respond, if necessary. The County maintained that, because the accident occurred in front of Det. Proctor's home before he had retrieved the cruiser, the special errands exception should not apply.

         On May 29, 2013, the WCC found that Det. Proctor's injury "did not arise out of and in the course of employment as alleged to have occurred on September 17, 2012, " and disallowed the claim.

         On June 12, 2013, Det. Proctor filed a petition for judicial review. At the September 30, 2014 hearing in the circuit court, the parties agreed that there was no dispute as to the facts of the case and resolved to ...


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