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Mutchie v. Old Republic Insurance Co.

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

March 8, 1995

ROBERT B. MUTCHIE Petitioner
v.
OLD REPUBLIC INSURANCE COMPANY Respondent/Insurer for TVX MINERAL HILL MINE Employer.

          PARTIAL DECISION

          Mike McCarter JUDGE

         Summary: The parties disputed whether claimant, a diamond driller working at a mine, was in the course and scope of employment while putting on overalls in the employer's "dry" room, which houses showers, lockers, and fans for drying clothes, prior to entering the mine portal. While donning his overalls, claimant felt a popping sensation, followed by severe pain in his low back.

         Held: Claimant was in the course and scope of employment. While injuries suffered during travel to and from an employer's premises are typically excluded from coverage, injuries occurring on the employer's premises during a reasonable interval before and after working hours may be covered. The course of employment also typically extends to activities connected with changing clothes before and afer work on the employer's premises. See, Larson's Workmen's Compensation (1994).

         Topics:

Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: section 39-71-407, MCA (1993). A diamond driller working at a mine was in the course and scope of employment while putting on overalls in the employer's "dry" room, which houses showers, lockers, and fans for drying clothes, prior to entering the mine portal. While donning his overalls, claimant felt a popping sensation, followed by severe pain in his low back. Although injuries suffered during travel to and from an employer's premises are typically excluded from coverage, injuries occurring on the employer's premises during a reasonable interval before and after working hours may be covered. The course of employment also typically extends to activities connected with changing clothes before and afer work on the employer's premises. See, Larson's Workmen's Compensation (1994) § 15 .
Employment: Course and Scope: Travel. A diamond driller working at a mine was in the course and scope of employment while putting on overalls in the employer's "dry" room, which houses showers, lockers, and fans for drying clothes, prior to entering the mine portal. Although injuries suffered during travel to and from an employer's premises are typically excluded from coverage, injuries occurring on the employer's premises during a reasonable interval before and after working hours may be covered. See, Larson's Workmen's Compensation (1994) § 15 .
Employment: Course and Scope: Coming and Going. A diamond driller working at a mine was in the course and scope of employment while putting on overalls in the employer's "dry" room, which houses showers, lockers, and fans for drying clothes, prior to entering the mine portal. Although injuries suffered during travel to and from an employer's premises are typically excluded from coverage, injuries occurring on the employer's premises during a reasonable interval before and after working hours may be covered. See, Larson's Workmen's Compensation (1994) § 15 .
Employment: Course and Scope: Preparation for Work. A diamond driller working at a mine was in the course and scope of employment while putting on overalls in the employer's "dry" room, which houses showers, lockers, and fans for drying clothes, prior to entering the mine portal. While donning his overalls, claimant felt a popping sensation, followed by severe pain in his low back. The course of employment typically extends to activities connected with changing clothes before and afer work on the employer's premises. See, Larson's Workmen's Compensation (1994) § 15 .

         This case was tried in Billings, Montana, on February 6 and 7, 1995. Robert B. Mutchie (claimant) contends that he suffered a compensable back injury on April 28, 1994. The insurer has denied liability under the Workers' Compensation Act but accepted the claim as compensable under the Occupational Disease Act.

         The two major issues in this case are (1) whether the claimant has satisfied the definition of an industrial accident and (2) whether the events which gave rise to the claim occurred in the course and scope of claimant's employment. The underlying facts essential to the resolution of the second issue are essentially undisputed and raise a legal question. Since the parties contemplate the taking of post-trial depositions and filing extensive proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Court directed them to address the course and scope issue before doing any additional work. If the Court determines that the claimant was not engaged in the course and scope of his employment, then the first issue is moot and he is not entitled to benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act. If he was acting in the course and scope of his conduct, then the parties will be free to take post-trial depositions and file their proposed findings and conclusions.

         Having considered the evidence and the briefs of the parties, I find that claimant was engaged in the scope and course of his employment at the time of the alleged industrial accident.

         Relevant Facts

         At the time of his alleged injury, claimant was employed as a diamond driller by TVX Mineral Hill Mine ("the mine"). His pay began at the time he entered the mine portal. Prior to entering the mine portal it was claimant's custom to dress in the "dry" room.

         The "dry" room is located on the mine property and is provided by the company for the convenience of its workers. It houses showers, lockers, and fans for drying clothes. While workers purchase their own clothing and may dress for work at home, they routinely use the dry room to change into their work clothes before entering the mine. Upon completion of their shifts, they use the dry room to shower and change to non-work clothing. Additionally, they are required to store certain items furnished to them by the company, including a miner's light and a "self-rescuer," ...


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