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Alfonso Smith v. United Water Delaware, IAB No. 1387093 (Jan. 23, 2013)

The Industrial Board finds that a Claimant's unexplained loss of consciousness while driving to a car wash was within the course and scope of his employment and not the result of an idiopathic fall.

Claimant was injured in a motor vehicle accident while driving his company vehicle. Claimant had a responsibility to maintain the company vehicle and in that vein Claimant testified that he was en route to vacuum the interior of the vehicle when he inexplicably lost consciousness and was involved in the accident. Employer defended on two grounds: first, that the Claimant was not within the course and scope of his employment when he was injured and second that his loss of consciousness was not in any way related to his employment.

With respect to the course and scope analysis, Claimant testified that he was unaware of vacuuming facilities on the employer's premises and therefore routinely used the "Five Points Car Wash" to vacuum the interior of his vehicle. The employer representative acknowledged that it was not forbidden to use another facility to maintain the interior of the vehicle and that it was possible that Claimant was unaware of the employer's vacuuming equipment; however, Claimant had never sought reimbursement for his expenses of vacuuming at "Five Points". Further, Claimant would have had to travel almost four miles past the employer's location to get to "Five Points" and along this path would have passed four or five other car washing businesses. In its analysis the Board found Claimant's testimony credible and concluded that Claimant was indeed en route to vacuum the interior of his company vehicle at the time of the motor vehicle accident. Accordingly, the Board did not accept the Employer's defense that Claimant was on "detour and frolic" during his work day, and that the accident was within the course and scope of his employment.

Secondly, Employer alleged that the inexplicable loss of consciousness of the Claimant rendered the claim non-compensable under the idiopathic fall doctrine, basically arguing that Claimant's loss of consciousness was due to an underlying medical condition and that the Claimant's employment did not trigger or otherwise contribute to the loss of consciousness. The Board did not agree and characterized the loss of consciousness as unknown and analyzed the issue under the "unexplained fall" doctrine utilizing the positional risk theory of compensability. In sum, the Board concluded that because the loss of consciousness of unknown or unexplained (i.e. not personal to the employee) and the employment placed the Claimant in a position to sustain the injury, the injury was compensable.


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