ERICKSTAD, Chief Justice.
Plaintiff-Appellant Dean Cody appeals from a March 10, 1987, district court order and memorandum decision affirming the North Dakota Workmen's Compensation Bureau's decision to deny Cody's claim. The Bureau dismissed Cody's claim on July 29, 1986, and affirmed its dismissal during a rehearing on November 10, 1986. The district court affirmed the Bureau's decision dismissing Cody's claim. We affirm.
Cody was employed by M.K. Ferguson Company at the time of the injury. Ferguson was employed by Basin Electric Power Cooperative under a one year "maintenance contract." The contract between Ferguson and Cody did not provide for pay for traveling to and from work at the time of the accident. Cody did receive travel and subsistence pay from Ferguson for work performed sometime prior to the accident. Cody's travel and subsistence pay was terminated as a result of a new agreement between Ferguson and Basin, as well as a concession on behalf of Cody's labor union negotiated approximately four to eight weeks prior to the accident.
Cody submitted and the Bureau heard evidence about the travel demands of the boilermaker profession. The evidence suggested that boilermakers' work is temporary and frequently requires extensive travel from one work site to another. Both Cody and the Bureau agree that payment of benefits turns on the question of whether Cody's trip home on the motorcycle was within the course of Cody's employment with Ferguson.
At the outset we think it helpful to clarify our review of the Bureau's decision. Our review of agency decisions is governed by Section 28-32-19, N.D.C.C.
In reviewing the agency's decision, we engage in a three step inquiry. Satrom v. North Dakota Workmen's Compensation Bureau, 328 N.W.2d 824, 829 (N.D.1982); Grant Farmers Mut. v. State By Conrad, 347 N.W.2d 324, 326 (N.D.1984). First, we determine whether or not the agency's findings of fact are supported by a preponderance of the evidence. Second, we examine whether or not the conclusions of law are supported by the findings of fact. Finally, we ask whether or not the decision is supported by the agency's conclusions of law. Satrom, supra at 829; Grace v. N.D. Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 395 N.W.2d 576, 580 (N.D.1986).
Cody asserts that this case presents a single question of law, namely, whether or not his injury fits within an exception to the general rule of no compensation for trips going to and coming from work. Cody's assertion is inconsistent with our prior case law.
We ruled in Geo. E. Haggart, Inc. v. North Dakota Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 171 N.W.2d 104, 112 (N.D.1969), that the question of whether or not the claimant's injury arose "in the course and scope of his employment" was limited to a determination of whether or not "there is substantial evidence to support the finding of the Bureau...."
More recently, in Claim of Bromley, 304 N.W.2d 412 (N.D.1981), we concluded the Bureau's course of employment determination was not supported by a "preponderance of the evidence." Claim of Bromley at 418. At issue in Claim of Bromley was whether or not Bromley's injury occurred within the course of his employment. Id. at 414.
In the instant case, it is appropriate as it was in Haggart to defer to the Bureau's expertise. The phrase "in the course of employment" refers to factors relating to time and place and generally requires the claimant to place the injury within the boundaries of employment. See, e.g., Nelson v. City of St. Paul, 249 Minn. 53, 81 N.W.2d 272, 276 (1957). See generally, Larson, Workmen's Compensation Law, Section 14.00. These time and place factors are essentially factual inquiries, best entrusted to the Bureau's experienced judgment. Accordingly, our review is limited to whether or not the Bureau's finding
We first defined the "preponderance of the evidence" standard in Power Fuels, Inc. v. Elkin, 283 N.W.2d at 220, when we said:
Turning to the facts of this appeal, we conclude a reasoning mind reasonably could have determined that Cody's injury was not "in any way employment related." The undisputed evidence disclosed that Cody was riding on his own motorcycle; that he was not on Ferguson's premises; that he was, in fact, on a public highway; and that he was driving home after work hours. Finally, it is undisputed that Cody was not being compensated for traveling to and from work at the time of his injury. While no single fact is dispositive, these facts, when considered in the aggregate, adequately support a factual determination that Cody's injury was not employment related.
Based on the foregoing facts, the Bureau set out its first conclusion of law:
We find the Bureau's conclusion that Cody failed to meet his burden of proof is supported by the Bureau's findings of fact.
The general rule of noncompensability for injuries occurring while traveling to and from work is summarized in Section 15.00 of Larson's treatise on workmen's compensation law:
We recognized the general rule in Fink v. Workmen's Compensation Bureau, 68 N.D. 531, 282 N.W. 505, 506 (1938); Kary v. North Dakota Workmen's Compensation Bureau, 67 N.D. 334, 336, 272 N.W. 340, 341 (1937); and Lacy v. Grinsteinner, 190 N.W.2d 11 (N.D.1971). We stated in Fink that the general rule prevails unless the claimant fits within one of the exceptions. Fink at 506.
Cody acknowledges the general rule of noncompensability for trips going to and from work but asserts his trip home fits within two of the exceptions to the general rule. The Bureau recognizes the two exceptions but denies Cody's eligibility under either one.
We view the Bureau's determination of whether Cody's injury fits within an exception to the general rule as a specific finding of fact. Accordingly, review of the Bureau's determination that Cody does not fit within an exception is limited to our preponderance of the evidence standard.
Cody first points out that it is fairly well established that when an employee is compensated for travel he is within the "course of employment." The Bureau recognizes this exception. The Bureau made a finding, however, and it is not disputed by Cody, that Ferguson was not paying any subsistence pay to Cody at the time of injury. The Bureau, therefore, concluded that Cody did not fit within this exception. Cody maintains, however, that as he was receiving subsistence and travel pay in previous jobs, past receipt of travel and subsistence pay should qualify him under the exception.
Cody's argument is a double-edged sword. Cody's labor union and employer's agreement to terminate subsistence and travel pay may, in fact, be an attempt to limit Ferguson's exposure to workmen's compensation liability. Indeed, Cody's argument, carried to its logical conclusion, would make every employee eligible for workmen's compensation benefits if injuries occurred while going to or from work simply because at one point in the employer/employee relationship, the employer paid subsistence and travel pay.
Cody next asserts that his injury fits within the exception when travel is an integral part of the service for which the worker is employed. The Bureau recognizes this exception also. The rule is succinctly stated in Section 16.00 of Larson's treatise on workmen's compensation:
The crux of this exception is that the travel of the employee is itself a part of the work within the employer/employee relationship. Cody contends that traveling to and from work is an integral part of his work as a boilermaker as boilermakers often travel long distances to temporary work sites. We are not persuaded by this argument.
The Bureau could reasonably have concluded that these factors describe demands of the boilermaker profession but do not
Cody's citation to Jackson v. Long, 289 So.2d 205 (La.App.1974) is unpersuasive. The employer in Jackson was in the business of providing labor at a specific place and time. Id. at 206. The employer in Jackson received an order to dispatch two cooks to a utility company that was working on the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Camille. Id. The Jackson trial court found that the employee was traveling between separate places of work. Id. at 207. The Bureau in the instant suit found that Cody was injured "in a motorcycle accident while traveling home from work." [Emphasis added.]
Travel for the employee in Jackson was hazardous as a result of Hurricane Camille. Public transportation was difficult to secure because of the existing hazardous conditions. Id. at 207. The unique circumstances in Jackson are a second critical distinction from the facts at bar.
Cody has cited other cases which are less compelling than Jackson. We are convinced the Bureau's finding that Cody did not fit within either exception is supported by a preponderance of the evidence.
The Bureau has asked this Court to deny an attorney's fee to Cody pursuant to Section 65-10-03, N.D.C.C., which requires the Bureau to pay the fee "unless the appeal is determined to be frivolous." We do not view this appeal as frivolous and therefore reject the Bureau's request. Jones v. North Dakota Workmen's Comp. Bureau, 334 N.W.2d 188, 192 (N.D.1983).
For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the trial court's order affirming the Bureau's denial of benefits.
VANDE WALLE, LEVINE, MESCHKE and GIERKE, JJ., concur.
See Claim of Bromley, 304 N.W.2d 412, 414-15 (N.D.1981).