Jumpp v. City of Ventnor
177 N.J. 470 (2003)

Facts:

  • Petitioner Robert Jumpp, Jr., was employed by the City of Ventnor as a pumping station operator.
  • His job was to monitor each of the City’s six water wells, towers and sewerage pumping stations that were dispersed throughout the City.
  • Jumpp used a City-owned vehicle when traveling to each worksite to perform his duties.
  • The day of his accident, May 5, 1998, Jumpp stopped at the post office on his way to an inspection.
    • Note: He did this almost daily, with the knowledge and permission of his supervisor.
  • As he was returning to the vehicle, he slipped and fell on a nearby driveway, suffering a fractured pelvis and severe leg injuries that required hospitalization and the insertion of a pin into his left fibula.

History:

  • The trial judge dismissed the claim.
    • Although Judge Dailey found that Jumpp was “authorized” to make the post office stop, and that the stop was only a “minor deviation from his responsibilities,” the judge concluded that petitioner’s injuries were not compensable because he was engaged in a personal errand and not the “direct performance of duties assigned or required by his employer.”
  • The Appellate Division affirmed.

Issue:
Whether an off-premises employee who deviates from his assigned rounds is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Holding:
No. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • “When an employee is assigned to work at locations away from the employer’s place of employment, eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits generally should be based on a finding that the employee is performing his or her prescribed job duties at the time of the injury.”
    • The reasoning here is that the state’s amendments in1979 focused on the performance of the work and wanted to limit the reach of the workers’ compensation statute.
  • The court was careful to point out that they weren’t doing away with the “minor deviation rule,” however.
    • Under the minor deviation rule, an employee does not become ineligible for workers’ compensation simply because he or she stopped work to have a smoke, or to get some fresh air, or to use the telephone, or to satisfy other human needs incidental to his being at his place of employment.
  • Also, whether the employer allowed the employee to perform a personal errand during his or her workday does NOT alter the analysis.

Dissent:
This was a minor deviation.

Rule: An off-premises employee who deviates from his assigned rounds is NOT entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.