Personal Comfort Doctrine In Pa. Workers Compensation Work Injury Case

Date: September 26, 2011
Posted In: DLP Law

          George was employed as a sales manager with Spacely Enterprises. He worked three days per week at Spacely’s Scranton, Pa.  office and worked at home, in his basement office, two days per week. While working at home one day, George received a work-related telephone call from his boss, Mr. Spacely, while he was upstairs drinking a glass of water. Mr. Spacely told George that a business competitor, Mr Cogswell, was courting some of Spacely’s clients. George felt that this work issue needed immediate attention and he began descending the steps to return to his basement office in his home. While descending the stairs, George fell and injured his back.  As a result of this injury, George was out of work for over a year. 

          George filed a Workers Compensation claim seeking wage loss benefits and payment of the medical expenses related to his fall. Spacely answered indicating that the injury did not happen in the course and scope of employment.

QUESTION: Will George prevail in his claim and prove this was a Pa. work injury?


           In order to prevail in a Pennsylvania Workers Compensation work injury claim, George must establish that he was injured in the course and scope of his employment. The “course and scope of employment” also includes injuries sustained while the employee is actually engaged in the furtherance of the business or affairs of the employer, whether upon the employer’s premises or elsewhere. Pennsylvania also recognizes the “personal comfort” doctrine under which an employee who sustains an injury during an inconsequential or innocent departure from work during regular working hours, such as going to the bathroom, is nonetheless considered to have sustained a Pa. work  injury in furtherance of the employer’s business.In this case, George’s actions in going upstairs to get a drink of water will likely be construed as an inconsequential or innocent departure from his work duties and his work injury claim will be granted.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive.  Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column. 

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.