CHOCTAW RESORT DEVELOPMENT ENTERPRISE AND NATIONAL UNION FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY OF PITTSBURGH, PA, APPELLANTS
VIRGINIA D. APPLEQUIST, APPELLEE
TRIBUNAL FROM WHICH APPEALED: MISSISSIPPI WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/11/2014. TRIBUNAL DISPOSITION: AWARDED BENEFITS.
FOR APPELLANTS: AMY K. TAYLOR.
FOR APPELLEE: AL CHADICK III.
BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND MAXWELL, JJ.
¶1. The Workers' Compensation Commission is the ultimate fact-finder in compensation cases. Our appellate review of its decisions is quite limited, and we must affirm if substantial evidence supports the Commission's decision. With this standard in mind, we review a compensation award to Virginia Applequist, an off-property director of player development for a Mississippi casino, who was injured in a car wreck. Her employing casino and its insurance carrier claimed she was outside the course and scope of her employment during the accident. But the Commission found Applequist was returning from conducting market research of a competing gaming facility--a duty within her job description. While this court might not have reached the same decision, we find substantial evidence supports the Commission's decision. So we must affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
¶2. Applequist has enjoyed a lengthy career in sales and event marketing spanning from California to Nevada and most recently in Mississippi and Alabama. In 2003, she moved from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where she had worked as a casino host for Grand Casino Biloxi, to become an " executive host" for Pearl River Resort (PRR) in Choctaw, Mississippi. She worked for PRR in this role from July 2003 to December 31, 2009. Applequist was tasked with generating gaming revenues by building the casino's client base. She also promoted shows, concerts, tournaments, lunches, dinners, parties, and other events to the casino's existing and prospective clients. Her job required plenty of travel and making cold calls.
¶3. In January 2010, Applequist became PRR's " off-property director of player development" in Birmingham, Alabama. Several new slot-parlor type bingo facilities had sprung up around Birmingham. And while PRR did not have casinos in Alabama, it offered the closest casino with gaming tables and maintained a strong market presence in Birmingham and surrounding areas. Because PRR did not
have an Alabama office, Applequist worked from her Dora, Alabama home when she was not traveling, hosting events, or surveying competing bingo halls. She had no fixed employment hours but often worked long hours. As she put it, her business " phone rang pretty much 24/7."
¶4. According to Applequist, on January 23, 2010, she traveled to three new Alabama bingo facilities to survey them. Applequist had only lived in the area a few weeks, so she asked her sister--a long-time resident--to accompany her. The last hall they visited that night was Bama Bingo. Applequist testified that after surveying Bama Bingo, they left around 4 a.m. While driving home in a rain storm, their car hit a 400-pound wild hog. Both Applequist and her sister, who was driving, were injured and hospitalized for several days. While in the hospital, Applequist reported the accident to PRR. Applequist wore a back brace for ninety days and worked from home and by phone while recovering from her injuries. She ...