Officer working for university under mutual assistance agreement between the university and Town of Garner was still an employee of the town for purposes of workers’ compensation benefits
Taylor v. Town of Garner, 694 S.E.2d 206 (N.C. Ct. App. 2010), discretionary review denied, No. 279P10, 2010 WL 5247908 (N.C. Nov. 4, 2010)
The Town of Garner and North Carolina State University (NCSU) had a mutual assistance agreement under which law enforcement officers employed by one entity could be temporarily assigned to work with the other. The agreement substantially complied with the state statute authorizing such assignments (G.S. 160A-288), providing that for personnel and administrative purposes an officer on loan remains under the control of the assisting entity and is entitled to workers’ compensation and other benefits as if he or she was functioning in the normal course of his or her duties with the assisting entity. Under this agreement Garner police officer John Taylor patrolled at NCSU football games. He severely injured his hand and lost his left thumb while serving in this capacity.
All parties to the case agreed that Taylor was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits; the issue was whether the Town of Garner, his official employer, or NCSU, in whose service he was injured, would pay them. The town argued that it was not responsible for the payments because Taylor’s assistance to NCSU did not occur under the kind of mutual assistance agreement authorized by G.S. 160A-288. No formal written request for Taylor’s services existed. NCSU countered that the written request had been in the form of an email between Chief Younce of NCSU and Tom Moss of the Garner Police Department. These men had a long-standing professional relationship, and both of them fully intended, and assumed, that the email was sufficient to initiate a relationship between Taylor and NCSU that would fall under the mutual assistance agreement. The full Industrial Commission found that Taylor’s service to NCSU did occur under the mutual assistance agreement and therefore that the Town of Garner was responsible for the benefits payment, as provided in the agreement discussed above. The town appealed.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the commission’s ruling. The General Assembly authorized mutual assistance agreements with the intention of protecting the benefits of officers on loan. Construing the requirements necessary to create such an agreement as narrowly as the town argues the court should would hinder that purpose. In this case all parties directly involved believed that Taylor was working under the terms of a mutual assistance agreement and intended that he should. As the parties substantially complied with the statutory requirements laid out for mutual assistance agreements, the commission’s ruling stands.
summarized by Ingrid M. Johansenposted March 3, 2011