In Evans v. Hendrick Automotive Group, we have filed this brief with the North Carolina Court of Appeals in this workers’ compensation case. Ms. Evans was an office manager for a Hendrick dealership in Texas. She was injured during a business trip to Charlotte, while she was walking back from an employer-sponsored dinner to her hotel. The primary issue is whether the Industrial Commission correctly concluded that Ms. Evans’ accident arose out of and was in the course of her employment. Valerie Johnson and Narendra Ghosh are representing Ms. Evans.
Here is the summary of our argument:
As the Industrial Commission concluded, plaintiff Cheri Evans is entitled to compensation for an injury by accident that occurred on April 19, 2005, during a four-day business trip in Charlotte. Plaintiff was seriously injured after she drank alcohol provided by the defendant-employer and then left the raucous business dinner to return to her hotel. The risk of injury was increased due to the nature of the work dinner, and her injury had its origins in that risk. Moreover, this Court has conclusively established that an employee on a business trip who is injured while returning to her hotel must be compensated under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Thus, plaintiff’s injury, a rational consequence of the circumstances of her employment, is compensable.
Defendants’ contention that plaintiff loses her right to compensation because she engaged in negligent or “thrill-seeking” behavior should be rejected for two reasons. First, this Court had held that an employee’s injury remains compensable even if it is caused by the employee’s own negligence or foolish activity. Second, it was plaintiff’s consumption of alcohol provided by her employer that led to her loss of inhibition and contributed to her accident. Therefore, plaintiff’s injury by accident was causally related to her employment because it was contributed to by defendant-employer’s provision of alcohol at an employer-sponsored dinner.
Plaintiff is thus entitled to total and partial wage loss compensation, among other benefits, as awarded by the Commission. Defendants cannot meet their burden of proving plaintiff constructively refused suitable employment by being terminated because the undisputed facts on appeal demonstrate that (1) plaintiff’s termination was related to her compensable injury; and (2) a non-disabled employee would not have been terminated for the same reasons she was terminated. In addition, the uncontested factual findings establish that plaintiff is disabled under the Act, and thus entitled to benefits, because her new employment – suitable to her qualifications and injury-related physical limitations – has reduced her wages. Not only are the relevant facts unchallenged on appeal, but are also amply supported by competent evidence in the record. Accordingly, the Commission’s Opinion and Award should be affirmed in full.