Park Ranger is denied personal injury claim under the Labor Code for injury that occurred off duty.

This recent decision from the California Court of Appeal gives warning to any apartment manager that is injured on the premises of the apartment complex whether or not the injury occurred while the apartment manager was performing a job duty. 

This case arises from a park ranger Marck Vaught and his wife Maria’s claim arising from Marck Vaught’s slip and fall inside his Park Ranger residence due to a dangerous condition.  Judge Jan I. Goldsmith of the El Cajon Superior Court granted the State of California summary judgment against the Vaught’s.  In denying Marck and Maria Vaught’s claim for personal injuries, the California appellate court held that their claim was barred by the workers’ compensation statutes.

The Court of Appeal explained:
“[A]n injured employee’s sole and exclusive remedy against his or her employer is the right to recover workers’ compensation benefits, provided “the conditions of compensation set forth in Section 3600 concur.” (§ 3602, subd. (a).) Section 3600, subdivision (a), provides in part: “Liability for the compensation provided by this division . . . shall, without regard to negligence, exist against an employer for any injury sustained by his or her employees arising out of and in the course of employment . . . .” (§ 3600, subd. (a), italics added.) “In all cases where the conditions of compensation set forth in Section 3600 do not concur, the liability of the employer shall be the same as if this division had not been enacted.” (§ 3602, subd. (c).)”

The California appellate court further described the application of the “bunkhouse rule”“

“When an employee is injured while living on the employer’s premises, the course of employment requirement in section 3600, subdivision (a), is satisfied if the employment contract of the employee contemplates, or the work necessity requires, the employee to reside on the employer’s premises. (Aubin v. Kaiser Steel Corp. (1960) 185 Cal.App.2d 658, 661 (Aubin).) This rule is known as the bunkhouse rule. The bunkhouse rule is an extension of the general rule that, where an employee is injured while on the employer’s premises as contemplated by the employment contract or the necessity of work, the employee will be compensated.3 (Rosen v. Industrial Acc. Com. (1966) 239 Cal.App.2d 748, 750 (Rosen); Aubin, supra, 185 Cal.App.2d at p. 661.) One rationale behind the bunkhouse rule is an employee’s reasonable use of the employer’s premises constitutes a portion of the employee’s compensation. (See e.g., Truck Ins. Exch. v. Industrial Acc. Com. (1946) 27 Cal.2d 813, 819; Aubin, supra, at p. 661.) Although “invocation of the bunkhouse rule establishes that the injury occurred in the course of the employment[,] . . . there also must be some connection between the employment and the injury, or an injury arising out of the reasonable use of the premises, or the bunkhouse must place the employee in a peculiar danger.” (State Comp. Ins. Fund v. Workers’ Comp. App. Bd., supra, 133 Cal.App.3d at p. 653, fns. omitted.) Thus, an injury sustained by an employee in a bunkhouse is not per se compensable. (Ibid.; see also Crawford v. Workers’ Comp. App. Bd. (1986) 185 Cal.App.3d 1265, 1268 [the requirements in § 3600, subd. (a), “are stated conjunctively and both must be satisfied for an injury to be compensable”].)

Then, the Court of Appeal administered the coup d’ grace to the Vaught’s claim when it applied the bunkhouse rule to Marck Vaught’s employment as a park ranger;

“We further conclude Marck resided in the ranch house out of work necessity, which provides an independent basis to satisfy the course of employment requirement. As a park ranger, Marck was required to be “on call all the time.” Marck also was required to patrol within the District. Because of the location of the ranch house in connection with his work, Marck and the State agreed Marck “would report to Borrego Springs to the district office,” but he “could work out of the house at Vallecito.” Marck also used a portion of the ranch house as his office, where he stored equipment, topographical and park maps, and various items he used on patrol, for fire protection, and search and rescue in connection with his job. Although Marck was not compelled to live in the ranch house, the nature of his work as a resource ranger necessitated that he live there.”

Gallery Items

Vaught v. State of California