Chandler v. Nello L. Teer Co., 305 N.C. 292 (1982)

March 3, 1982 · Supreme Court of North Carolina · No. 140A81
305 N.C. 292

VIRGINIA L. CURTIS CHANDLER, widow and Guardian ad Litem for Elizabeth Ann Curtis, Minor Daughter, and Walter Mason Curtis, IV, Minor Son, and Walter Mason Curtis, III, Deceased Employee v. NELLO L. TEER COMPANY, Employer and UNITED STATES FIDELITY AND GUARANTY INSURANCE COMPANY, Carrier

No. 140A81

(Filed 3 March 1982)

On appeal of right by defendants from the decision of the Court of Appeals, reported at 53 N.C. App. 766, 281 S.E. 2d 718 *293(1981), which reversed the opinion and award of the Industrial Commission denying plaintiff worker’s compensation benefits for her husband’s death.

Plaintiff’s husband was killed on 17 June 1976 in an automobile accident in Malawi, Africa. He was employed by defendant Nello L. Teer Company (Teer) as an internal auditor and had been sent to Malawi by Teer to audit its Malawi operations. He arrived at Teer’s Chikwawa project in Ngabu, Malawi, on 14 June 1976.

The Chikwawa project was located in an isolated part of Malawi in southeast Africa, and Teer had had to build facilities to provide living quarters and dining and recreational facilities for its employees. On the evening of 16 June 1976 the electricity failed at the project, and Curtis and Thomas P. Smith, an employee of an engineering firm hired by Teer, left the camp to go to a nearby sugar plantation. The apparent purpose of the trip was for Smith to arrange a softball game between the American sugar plantation employees and Teer employees. Curtis went along to keep Smith company. They traveled in a truck owned and maintained by Teer, but which had been leased to Smith’s firm.

At the sugar plantation, Smith and Curtis played darts and had several drinks. Sometime after midnight they left the sugar plantation, took a friend home and had a drink with him there. They left the friend’s home to return to camp about one o’clock in the morning.

On the way back to camp, but within the confines of the Chikwawa project, the truck driven by Smith collided head-on with another truck. Both Smith and Curtis were killed. Evidence showed that the truck driven by Smith had crossed over the center line prior to the collision.

Plaintiff filed a Notice of Accident with the Industrial Commission in July of 1977 and on 30 May 1980, a deputy commissioner filed an opinion and award which concluded that Curtis’s accident arose out of and in the course of his employment and awarded benefits. Teer appealed, and the full Commission reversed and denied benefits, finding that Curtis was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.

*294Plaintiff appealed to the Court of Appeals. That court, in an opinion by Judge Becton in which Judge Vaughn concurred, reversed the opinion and award of the Commission and ordered the reinstatement of the opinion and award of the deputy commissioner. Judge Arnold dissented.

Defendant appealed of right to this Court pursuant to G.S. 7A-30(2).

Maxwell, Freeman & Beason, P.A., by James B. Maxwell and Mark R. Morano, for plaintiff-appellees.

Walter L. Horton, Jr., for defendant-appellants.


We have carefully examined the Court of Appeals’ opinion and the briefs and authorities on the points in question. We find that the result reached by the Court of Appeals, its reasoning, and the legal principles enunciated by it to be altogether correct and adopt that opinion as our own. Its decision is, therefore,