An appellate court has ruled that a drilling company roughneck who sustained personal injuries after his shift ended cannot collect benefits from workers’ compensation.
Justices on Beaumont, Texas’ Ninth District Court of Appeals reversed the decision of jurors in Newton County, Texas to award workers’ comp to Cody Jones, an employee of Nicklos Drilling, for an injury he suffered 10 hours after the end of his shift.
In the March 5 opinion, Justice David Gaultney said that there was not sufficient evidence that at the time of Jones’ injury, he was engaging in furthering the company’s business. Justices Charles Kreger and Hollis Horton agreed with the decision.
Gray Insurance, the workers’ comp carrier for Nicklos Drilling, won the appeal despite Jones’ argument that other courts had ruled favorably in similar cases.
When Jones was injured, he had finished a meal in a crew house at a drilling rig.
Jones weeks alternated between seven 12 hour shifts and seven days off. Because his residence was two and a half hours away, he would typically sleep in the crew house during the weeks involving 12 hour shifts.
Workers did not pay to sleep in the crew house, but were required to provide their own sheets and pillows, feed themselves, and keep the place clean.
As Jones was taking out the trash, he dropped an empty packet on the floor. His back popped as he bent forward to retrieve it.
Jones filed for benefits from workers’ compensation, and it was decided by an appeals panel at the Texas Department of Insurance decided the injury did not qualify.
Jones filed suit in Newton County district court, and jurors ruled in his favor. District Judge Joe Bob Golden ordered Gray Insurance to compensate him.
Gray Insurance appealed, arguing that a carrier assumes liability only when an injury occurs within the scope of employment. The appellate court agreed that Jones’ injury was not within the scope of his employment.
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