News & Events:

Debunking the Bunkhouse Rule

August 27, 2015

If an employee who lives on the employer’s property is injured – does that mean the employer is responsible under workers’ compensation?   California has a doctrine, known as the Bunkhouse Rule, which has long held that it does; however, recently the rule got some clarification in Wright v State.  That ruling held that the injury must arise out of AND occur in the course and scope of employment.  This requirement is met when the employment agreement contemplates, or the work requires, the employee reside on the property.

 

The case that brought about the clarification involved an employee, Wright, who worked for the State and lived on State-owned property.  Wright was injured when a stair in a common area of the property gave out.  Wright filed a civil suit alleging premises liability rather than a workers’ compensation claim but the trial court found his was an industrial injury.  Wright appealed.

The Court of Appeal found that Wright did not come within the Bunkhouse Rule because he was not required to live on the property or provided any employment benefit.  That the State required Wright to name the State as an additional insured on his liability policy, a fact which the Court found underscored that Wright’s residency was not an employment benefit. 

The difference to Wright in whether the injury was industrial or a civil tort claim is significant.  In a tort case the plaintiff is entitled to full compensation for all damages caused by the injury if the landowner was negligent.  In comparison, an injured employee receives partial compensation in the form of medical expenses, partial temporary disability, and, if applicable, a proportionate permanent disability award.  

Case Citation:  Wright v State, 233 Cal.App.4th 1218 (2015)

 

Author

Rayma Church
Rayma Church

Practice Area

  • Agribusiness Disputes & Litigation
  • Hospitality & Premises Lawsuits
  • Personal Injury Claims & Litigation