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3 Stonedeggs, Inc. – (DBA California Sandwich Company) business was to provide food service to firefighters and forestry workers at various locations. The employer won a contract to provide food service at a remote location near Happy Camp, California, and it was expected that the job would last 3 to 6 months.

The employer asked employees assigned to its Brownsville camp to volunteer to work at Happy Camp, a remote location without cellular telephone services where it was to serve meals for the three-to-six month period.

Braden Nanez and two other employees from the Brownsville camp agreed to travel to work providing food service at Happy Camp, and the employer authorized Nanez to drive his own car from Brownsville to his residence and then to Happy Camp.

On October 5, 2020, the day of the vehicular accident at State Highway 263/Shasta River Bridge, Nanez worked the breakfast shift and, afterwards, at about 9:00 a.m., commenced a seventy-mile drive to Yreka in his own car. He texted manager Brossard later that he would return for his next shift at about 4:00 p.m., a timeframe permitting daytime travel in his off hours.

The employer was not informed of his reasons for traveling to Yreka, but manager Todd surmised that it was to use his cellular telephone.

On April 26, 2022, the matter proceeded to trial as to the following issues: “Injury arising out of and in the course of employment per Labor Code section 3600(a), (the going and coming rule); and intoxication.”

The WCJ found that applicant (1) did not sustain injury arising out of and in the course of employment (AOE/COE); (2) violated company policy when he left the worksite without permission on the date of his injury; and (3) was engaged in a material deviation and complete departure from his employment at the time of injury. The WCJ ordered that Nanez take nothing on his workers’ compensation claim.

On reconsideration, Nanez contended that the evidence established that he was engaged in an activity reasonably expected to be incident to his employment at the time of his injury, and, therefore, that the commercial traveler rule applies to his accident.

The WCAB agreed, and rescinded the F&O, and substituted findings that the commercial traveler rule applies to his accident, that his claim is not barred by the going and coming rule and intoxication, and that he sustained injury AOE/COE in the form of a fracture to the right femur, and deferred his claim of injury to other body parts in the panel decision of Nanez v 3 Stonedeggs, Inc. -ADJ14015513 (February 2023)

The employer filed a timely Petition for Writ of Review, and the Court of Appeal reviewed the case, and affirmed the WCAB in the unpublished case of 3 Stonedeggs v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board et al -C098711 (April 2024).

On appeal, the employer contends in part that any activity that involved leaving the camp without approval and for comfort and safety when the employer provided all items the employees would need was not a personal activity reasonably contemplated by the employer under the circumstances of this case.

The Court of Appeal reviewed the great body of decisions, including WCAB panel decision on the application of the commercial traveler rule and concluded as follows:

Synthesizing these decisions and looking at the nature of Nanez’s activity and his employment, we conclude substantial evidence supports the Board’s decision. We disagree with the employer’s argument that any departure from the camp without authorization was outside the course of employment. Substantial evidence establishes that the employer could reasonably expect that Nanez, incident to the employer’s requirement that he spend time away from home, would leave camp in his personal automobile and drive ‘to town’ during his off hours. The employer made clear to employees its ‘expectation’ that employees not leave camp. It told employees it did not want them leaving camp ‘if they don’t have to’ due to safety reasons, and it ‘really encouraged’ the employees not to drive on the roads. But in none of these explanations did the employer actually prohibit the employees from leaving camp.”

“Substantial evidence thus supports the Board’s determination that Nanez’s departure from camp was a leisure activity that the employer may reasonably have expected to be incident to its requirement that Nanez spend time away from home.”