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Bo Liu worked for 4D Security Solutions, Inc. as an engineer. He was sent to test the company’s hardware and software at an army base in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He worked alone on the base and after hours he would upload data to 4D in the United States using a company-issued Blackberry. One of his job requirements was to respond to inquiries from 4D’s employees in the United States.
Not long after his arrival in the UAE, Liu decided to visit a local museum because he had no “field work” to do on Friday, December 2, 2011. He was “on call” in the event that an employee in the United States might need assistance. He took his Blackberry with him while touring the museum. He testified that he visited the museum because he felt he needed to get to know the people and the culture he was working in. He did not recall getting any messages from the United States while he was there. After two hours in the museum, he fell and underwent surgery in the UAE. He filed a claim petition for workers’ compensation benefits.
The Judge of Compensation dismissed the petition because N.J.S.A. 34:15-36 provides that one who is on a special mission is only covered when performing the duties assigned or directed by the employer. Liu was merely touring a museum when he fell. On appeal, Liu raised two arguments for the first time: namely that he was “on call” and therefore working while in the museum, and secondly that he was covered because of the “mutual benefit” doctrine.
The Appellate Division noted that the only cases supporting petitioner regarding the “on-call” argument were pre-1979 decisions. The Court noted that the 1979 Amendments were designed to limit compensation to accidents occurring “when the employee is engaged in the direct performance of duties assigned or directed by the employer.” The Court observed that there was no evidence that US employees were trying to reach Liu while he was in the museum.
As for the “mutual benefit” doctrine, the Court commented that Liu failed to raise this issue below but even so, the Court said that there is no post-1979 decision that has applied this doctrine. The Court also said, “More importantly, Liu’s personal belief that a museum visit would help him understand the UAE’s history and culture so he could work better with those around him falls far short of demonstrating 4D would necessarily derive any tangible benefit from the museum visit.”
For these reasons the Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of this case. This case can be found at Liu v. 4D Security Solutions, Inc., A-3591-15T1 (App. Div. May 1, 2017).
John H. Geaney, Esq., is an Executive Committee Member and a Shareholder in Capehart Scatchard's Workers’ Compensation Group. Mr. Geaney concentrates his practice in the representation of employers, self-insured companies, third-party administrators, and insurance carriers in workers’ compensation, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family and Medical Leave Act. Should you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Mr. Geaney at 856.914.2063 or by e‑mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.