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THE PA COMMONWEALTH COURT
DENIES COMPENSATION FOR PARKING LOT INJURY
Kevin L. Connors, Esquire
Interesting facts produce interesting law!
This was the case in Quality Bicycle Products, Inc. v. WCAB, decided by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on April 25, 2016.
Quality Bicycle involved a course and scope of employment case, with Claimant originally being awarded workers’ compensation benefits by the Workers’ Compensation Judge, the award being affirmed by the Appeal Board, and the award then being overturned and reversed by the Commonwealth Court, which held that the Claimant’s injury, on the employer’s premises, did not occur within the course and scope of employment, as it was not caused by “a condition on the premises”.
Back to our interesting facts.
In Quality Bicycle, the Claimant was working in his employer’s warehouse when he was paged over the intercom that he had a telephone call from his fiancé, who was hysterical that their 9 year old daughter was missing from school.
The Claimant immediately told his manager that he had to leave work, for a family emergency. Attempting to clock out, Claimant’s manager told him that he would clock out for him, and the Claimant immediately left the building.
As the Claimant was hurrying to his car, only about 10 or 12 feet into the parking lot, he felt a pop in his knee, and fell to the ground, unable to bear weight on his leg.
Ambulanced to the hospital, the Claimant eventually required surgery on his injured knee.
In support of his Claim Petition, Claimant testified that he was injured in the parking lot where he always parked for work, that all of his co-workers also parked in that parking lot, and that his employer had told him to park there for work.
However, the Claimant also testified, presumably on cross-examination, that there was no condition or abnormality of the parking lot that caused him to fall, as his knee simply gave out.
Awarding benefits to the Claimant, the Workers’ Compensation Judge accepted the Claimant’s testimony as being both credible and persuasive, including that the Claimant was injured on the employer’s premises in the course and scope of his employment.
Affirmed by the Appeal Board, probably through a statistical anomaly, the employer’s appeal to the Commonwealth Court argued that the Claimant’s injury was not in the course and scope of employment as the Claimant should have been required to prove, since he was not furthering the business or affairs of the employer when injured, each of the three following elements:
· The injury must have occurred on the employer’s premises;
· The employee’s presence on the employer’s premises was required by the nature of his employment; and,
· The Claimant’s injury was caused by the condition of the premises, or by operation of the employer’s business, citing to Section 301(c)(1) of the Act and the Commonwealth Court’s 1991 Decision inMarkle v. WCAB, 785 A.2d 151, 153 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2001).
In reversing the Claimant’s award of compensation, the Commonwealth Court held that the Claimant was unable to prove that his knee injury was caused by a condition on the premises, such that the Claimant was not able to satisfy the requirements of Section 301(c)(1).
Reversing the Claimant’s award of compensation benefits, the Commonwealth Court reviewed several course and scope of employment decisions in which it had concluded that the Claimants’ injuries were not caused by conditions on the employer’s premises, to include:
· Markle, involved the Claimant being injured while climbing over the center console in the front seat of her car, because the employer’s parking lot was snow-covered and the truck parked next to the Claimant was too close to allow her to open her driver’s side door, with the Court holding that the Claimant’s injury was caused by the Claimant’s act of climbing over the console, and not by any condition on the employer’s premises, to include either the accumulated snow, or the car parked next to the Claimant’s car;
· Dana Corporation (548 A.2d 669), involving the Claimant being injured in the employer’s parking lot when a co-worker’s car moved backward as the Claimant was attempting to help push the car forward, with the Court determining that the Claimant’s injury was caused by the movement of the car, and not by the condition of the premises;
· Anzese (385 A.2d 625), involving the Claimant being killed when he was struck by lightning in the employer’s parking lot, with the court holding that “death from lightning was in no way related to the condition of the premises …”
For argument sake, the Court also reviewed several decisions in which it had found that the Claimant’s injury, while not furthering the employer’s business or affairs, were caused by conditions on the premises, including:
· WCAB v. United States Steel (376 A.2d 271), in which it was concluded that the employee’s injury was caused by a condition on the premises, when the employee, while driving to work in the employer’s parking lot, suffered a seizure and crashed into a concrete abutment, concluding that the abutment was a condition on the employer’s premises that contributed to the employee’s death;
· Newhouse (530 A.2d 545), involving the employee being injured when thrown from the hood of a co-worker’s car on an access road on the employer’s premises, when the co-worker made an unexpected turn on the access road due to a closed exit gate, concluding that the closed exit gate and a bend in the road were conditions on the employer’s premises contributing to the employee’s injury.
Since the Claimant did not allege, in Quality Bicycle, that the parking lot caused or contributed to his injuries, admitting that no physical condition of the parking lot caused his injury, the Commonwealth Court held that the Claimant had failed to prove any connection between his injury and any condition on the employer’s premises, resulting in the reversal of the Claimant’s compensation benefit award.
This appears to be a very straightforward decision predicated on the Claimant’s own testimony that his injury simply occurred, for no apparent reason, there being testimony from the Claimant himself that he was not injured because of somethingin or on the parking lot.
Keep in mind that this holding is also predicated on the Claimant’s injury occurring when the Claimant was not doing anything that could be construed to prove that the Claimant was furthering the business or affairs of the employer, as the Claimant was regrettably injured when responding to a family emergency.
Again, interesting facts make interesting law.
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