Any injury sustained by a worker while one is traveling to and from place of work in a transport service vehicle provided by the employer, is considered as the fault of the employer and thus the employer will be required to pay compensation. Payment of such compensation by the employer is obligatory regardless of the fact that there was an involvement of third parties in the accident.
The suit was based on the labor law and initiated upon the claim of the applicant. The applicant stated that the deceased, the applicant’s wife, worked in the defendant company as a project coordinator. While carrying out her duties, she was sent to Awassa. While returning from there, by the employer’s vehicle, she died due to car accident. Hence the applicant was claiming for compensation.
The defendant, on his statement of defense stated the accident occurred when the deceased was driving the car even though there was a driver assigned by the company. Hence the defendant argued they should not be held responsible.
The lower decided there was employer–employee relation between the defendant and the deceased. But it denied payment of compensation since the plaintiff was the one driving the car and hence cannot be considered as an occupational injury. The High Court confirmed the lower court decision based on Art.337 of Civil Procedure Code.
The Cassation bench deliberated on the case and framed the issue “will the fact that the applicant took the car from the driver while the accident occurred relive the defendant from paying compensation?” and thoroughly analyzed the issue.
The bench pointed out that basically the employer is liable for injuries sustained by the employee during the performance of his work. It is stipulated under Art. 96(1) of the Civil Code “…the employer shall be liable irrespective of fault”. This show even if the employer cannot be held liable he will be considered to be at fault if the injury sustained was while the worker was performing his obligations.
Hence, when we come to this case the appropriate provision to be applied is Art. 9(1)(C) which states that the employer will be liable for any injury sustained by a worker while one is traveling to or from place of work in a transport service vehicle provided by the employer. This provision doesn’t put any exception to occupational injuries sustained while another third party was driving the vehicle.
So, the fact that the deceased was driving the vehicle cannot automatically relive the employer from paying compensation. Hence after giving the above illustration the bench dismissed the lower court’s decision and ordered for the payment of compensation.
If it is ordered that the defendant is liable, to whom will the defendant be liable was the next question that should be addressed. As stipulated under Art. 107(1) of the labor law where a person dies from an employment injury, he/she is entitled to survivors’ pension, grating or compensation to his/her dependant. But the term “dependent” is not given any interpretation by the law; hence the bench interpreted the term dependent as a person which requires the deceased to get food, shelter, cloth and other things relevant to his/her health.
Thus in this case the plaintiff is capable of administering himself and it is not proved that he is in fact dependent on the deceased. So the mere fact that he is the husband shouldn’t enable him to get compensation.
On the other hand when it comes to the daughter of the deceased, since it is proved that she is dependent on the deceased, the bench decided that the defendant pays compensation to her.
Thus what one can infer from the above decision is that even if there was third party’s involvement on an occupational injury, it cannot be put as a defense as long as the injury was sustained while the worker was traveling to or from work place in a transport service vehicle provided by the employer.
In addition the term ‘dependent’ stipulated under Art. 107(1) of the labor code should be interpreted to mean those people who are in need to the deceased for the fulfillment of their basis needs.
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