Summer student injured helping father secure load on truck
An Ontario teen who injured himself on a company truck while in his own driveway is not entitled to workers’ compensation, the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has ruled.
Jared Sterling, 18, worked as a summer student for Ferrell Builders’ Supply, a supplier of masonry and landscaping materials in Waterloo, Ont., in 2006 and 2007. Sterling was familiar with Ferrell through his father, who was a delivery truck driver for the company.
Jared worked as a yard helper, performing duties such as cleaning up the yard, assisting customers and processing orders. His normal working hours were 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On July 17, 2007, Jared’s father was assigned a delivery of a cube of bricks to Barrie the next morning. He asked for permission to take the dump truck with the bricks home that evening so he could leave directly from home in the morning and Ferrell agreed, with the instructions he was not to touch the truck once it was parked in the driveway.
When Jared’s father brought the truck home around 6 p.m., he discovered the load of bricks had shifted and wasn’t secure. He asked Jared and his older brother, who was not a Ferrell employee, to help fix the load.
The boys climbed onto the back of the truck to adjust the load of bricks. Once the task was finished, Jared’s father and brother climbed down, but Jared jumped off the side of the truck. He slipped and landed on his back and head in the driveway, damaging his spinal cord and making him a quadriplegic.
Jared and his mother filed a suit against the manufacturer of the dump truck, his father and Ferrell. The suit claimed Ferrell was vicariously liable because Jared was acting within the scope of his employment when he was injured. His father’s insurance company, Guarantee Company of North America, filed a request for a declaration that Jared was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and therefore unable to file a civil action.
The tribunal found Jared had fixed hours of work and a fixed place of employment at the yard and the accident happened outside of both. However, it acknowledged the activity he was performing when he was injured was tied to his work and was something he occasionally did as part of his job.
The tribunal found Jared was not acting in the course of his employment when he helped his father secure the load of bricks in the truck. Though his father also worked for Ferrell, he was not Jared’s direct supervisor and in this case, he was acting as a son helping his father. It noted Jared had helped his father with the truck previously before he became a Ferrell employee. He also wasn’t paid for the work and Ferrell received no direct benefit from his actions. Therefore, the accident didn’t happen in the course of his employment, Jared wasn’t entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and he was free to commence a civil action.
“The activity at the time of the accident was predominantly personal in character,” said the tribunal. “The accident occurred outside of his normal working hours, without remuneration, and away from the workplace premises.” See Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal Decision No. 2508/09 (Jan. 20, 2010), R. McCutcheon V-Chair (Ont. W.S.I.A.T.).