The high court of Massachusetts has ruled that a construction worker for the “Big Dig” highway project in Boston, Massachusetts has no entitlement to benefits for workers’ compensation for the personal injuries he suffered as a result of falling asleep while driving home late from work.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, in a reversal of an Industrial Accident Board ruling, said that the worker who had worked 27 hours before his drive home had no entitlement to benefits because there was not sufficient proof that he had been required to work the long shift.
Involved in the case was the so-called “going and coming” rule, which provides that compensation is not typically granted for personal injuries employees suffer on their travels to and from work.
According to court records, on August 3, 2001, the day before the accident, Michael Haslam began work at 5 a.m. He was a foreman supervising a carpentry crew building forms for road supports. During the day, various circumstances delayed the project and the pouring of concrete into the forms did not start until 1 a.m., nearly 20 hours after Haslam’s shift began. He testified that his shift was to end at 3:30 p.m. and he was not scheduled for overnight work, but he remained because a carpenter has to be present while the concrete’s being poured and no one else was there to finish what he had been doing until around 8 a.m. He said that he continued on because he believed if he didn’t finish, he would no longer have a job.
However, the on-duty construction crew supervisor for the night testified that there was a number of people he could rely on if a problem arose, so he could have called someone to get more personnel. He said that Haslam had not asked for assistance that night.
North Carolina applies the "going and coming" rule to deny benefits to workers who are injured while traveling to and from work. There are a number of important exceptions to North Carolina's going and coming rule but exhaustion and sleep deprivation from working long hours is not one of those exceptions. Therefore, North Carolina courts would likely have ruled the same as the Massachusetts court did in this case.