Course & Scope in DE: The Case of the Savvy Sleuth – Meeting in Bar with Alleged Co-worker Ruled Outside Course & Scope
LexisNexis Workers' Compensation Law Community
By Cassandra Roberts
Reading the case of David Mosley v. Gateway House, IAB Hrg. # 1343902 (8/11/10) was a little bit like watching an episode of Columbo from my childhood. For some of you, perhaps reminiscent of The Rockford Files or any other offering involving a good natured detective such as Barnaby Jones or Magnum, P.I. In this IAB hearing, that role is capably played by defense attorney Gary Baker of the Elzufon Austin law firm, and the decision, a 30-page novella, is masterfully written by Hearing Officer Susan Mack.
The facts in a nutshell:
Claimant David Mosley sustained serious bodily injury after leaving a Chester, PA bar the evening of July 3, 2009, a Friday. Both of his legs had to be amputated. He claimed to have just left a meeting with a co-worker, Lillian Walker, to discuss a $150,000.00 federal grant.
Mosley was employed by the Gateway House as a prison counselor and Grant was hired by Mosley as a part-time clerk typist for the correctional institution to prepare correspondence and perform case management, for which she had no particular training or experience.
Facts suggesting that these two were co-workers and this meeting could have been legit:
•The grant did exist
•There was testimony suggesting any relationship between Mosley and Walker would have been work-related and not personal
•There was witness corroboration putting her in the workplace although she often worked from home
•Walker received paychecks from Gateway House
•Walker was listed as a service coordinator on a Gateway May, 2009 Profit and Loss statement
•Walker was listed as a service coordinator on the Gateway Payroll Summary for 2009
Where the course and scope argument lost its steam:
•Testimony from a member of the Board of Directors, Eugene Rutter, that immediately after claimant's accident the paychecks to Lillian Walker were discontinued and she never contacted Gateway House to inquire as to why they were no longer being issued
•That same witness could not find any reference to work performed by Walker or identify any of her work product
•Testimony from Rutter that he had never seen any time sheets from Walker or any documents to verify her hiring
•Testimony from a digital forensic analyst, Jeffrey Baker, that examination of the hard drive of the computers at Gateway House failed to disclose a user profile or log-in for Lillian Walker although such profiles existed for several other employees
•That same witness, Baker, testified that no emails from Walker were identified
•Letters that Walker had supposedly sent out to residents in her case manager capacity regarding curfew violations were dated after the residents had already left the facility
These were not the only inconsistencies outlined by the Board in its decision denying benefits. Evidence was introduced suggesting that Mr. Mosley met with two gentlemen on the evening in question rather than Ms. Walker, and the Board also considered testimony from Ron Beard, Director of Filed Research Operations at the University of Delaware, that his unit would be administering the $150,000.00 grant rather than Mosley and Walker, thus suggesting that the purpose of any such meeting was not as stated. This case is an interesting study in detail and minutia being carefully pieced together to craft a defense to a claim presenting admittedly sympathetic as well as catastrophic injuries. Well done, Gary Baker! Well done witnesses!
I would add that Hearing Officer Susan Mack shines here. She wrote this decision and it is meticulous, crafted with patience and precision.
While this is not a scholarly treatise because we are dealing with a factually driven issue, this is a fun read. And while no one dies (thankfully), I give this the "Jessica Fletcher/ Murder, She Wrote" award as a great whodunit.
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