There are two situations when an employee hurt at work in Pennsylvania is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The first, which encompasses the vast majority of cases, is when the employee is “actually engaged in the furtherance of the [employer’s] business or affairs . . . .” This is true whether the injury takes place on or off the premises of the employer. On the other hand, the second is when the employee is not actually engaged in the furtherance of the employer’s business or affairs. In that situation, the analysis is one based on a 1977 Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court case called Workmen’s Comp. Appeal Bd. (Slaugenhaupt) v. United States Steel Corp (and generally known as the “Slaugenhaupt test”).
Under the Slaugenhaupt test, the injured worker must prove that he or she “(1) is on a premises under the control of the employer; (2) is required by the nature of his employment to be on such premises; and (3) sustains an injury or injuries due to a condition of the premises or operation of the business.” All three of these requirements must be met. Parking lot cases (so, before or after work) are always fact-specific, given this analysis.
A recent case decided by the Commonwealth Court of PA addressed this issue. In Lewis v. Lehigh Asphalt Paving & Construction Co. (Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board), the employee felt some pain and weakness in his left calf and ankle while working. He finished his shift and clocked out. About 15 minutes after clocking out, he got into his work truck to go home. As he pushed off his left foot to get into the truck, he felt a pop in his lower leg (which was the Achilles tendon tearing). He sought medical care, and provided notice to his employer, that same day.
A Claim Petition was filed and litigated. Initially, the Workers’ Compensation Judge (WCJ) granted the Claim Petition. However, the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB) remanded the case back to the WCJ to address whether the injury took place within the scope and course of the employment. On remand, the WCJ found that Claimant was not within the scope and course of his employment at the time of the injury, and denied the Claim Petition. This was affirmed by the WCAB on appeal.
Upon further appeal, the Commonwealth Court of PA also affirmed the denial of the Claim Petition. While the Court had no issue that the first two prongs of the Slaugenhaupt test had been met, the Court agreed that the third had not. The injured worker testified that “his injury did not result from tripping over anything in Employer’s parking lot and that he did not hit his leg against the vehicle in any way to cause the injury.” Thus, the Court found that the condition of the premises in no way accounted for the injury taking place.
As we noted above, parking lot cases are very fact-specific, and often seem to be at odds with each other. While we understand the conclusion of the Court, we cannot help but wonder while so little attention was paid to the fact that it was a “work” truck. It was not the injured worker’s private vehicle, it was the Employer’s truck. The employee was injured when he was pushing off with his left foot to step up into the cab of the truck. As Claimant attorneys, it would seem to us that stepping up into the cab of a work truck, in the work parking lot, is an extension of the premises of the Employer. And, the need to step up into the truck is what caused the injury. Perhaps if the employee was getting into his own Honda Accord, the injury would not have taken place at that moment.