Worker Injured in Employer’s Parking Lot After Work Not Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Generally, for most employees, the commute to and from work is not a time in which the employee is covered under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation system (this is known as the “going and coming rule”).  As with many of the principles we touch on with this blog, there are exceptions.  (One critical one, which we are not discussing in this blog post, is the “traveling employee,” which can be seen in this blog post).  Here we are going to look at a recent case on what happens with an injury in the employer’s parking lot.

In Quality Bicycle Products, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Shaw), the employee was running out of the building to his car due to a family emergency.  On his way to his car, in the employer’s parking lot, the employee felt a pop in his knee (later diagnosed as a fractured patella). A Claim Petition was filed and granted by a Workers  Compensation Judge (WCJ).  This was affirmed on appeal by the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (WCAB).  [Note that other aspects of the decision were reversed by the WCAB, but are not relevant to our discussion].

Upon appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, the decision of the WCJ was reversed.  The Court felt that the WCJ, and the WCAB, erred in finding that the injury took place in the scope and course of employment.

As the Court explained:

“An employee who is not furthering the business or affairs of his employer must prove he or she is within the course of his or her employment by satisfying the following three conditions: ‘(1) the injury must have occurred on the employer’s premises; (2) the employee’s presence thereon was required by the nature of his employment; and (3) the injury was caused by the condition of the premises or by the operation of the employer’s business thereon.’”

While the first two prongs of this test were met (as acknowledged by the employer), the Court felt that the third was not.  According to the Court, the parking lot “did not cause or contribute to the causative chain to Claimant’s injury.”

Not having access to the testimony of the injured worker, and the medical evidence, it is difficult for us to directly dispute the conclusion of the Court.  However, as a practical matter, if the leverage of the employee’s leg hitting the pavement of the lot caused the fracture, then the decision fails to make sense.  According to the Court, the fracture must have happened while the leg of the injured worker was in the air.  While this strains logic, again, we do not have sufficient information to disagree with any degree of certainty.

What we do know, as confirmed by the Court, is that the premises of the employer (the parking lot in this situation) need not be defective or faulty in causing or contributing to the injury.  These “parking lot “ cases are frequently specific to the facts of each case, as here.  Again, we believe that if the planting of the employee’s foot on the parking lot surface had led to the fracture, the result would have been different.

When we see cases so sensitive to the facts involved, we are reminded that it is critical that an injured worker have representation by an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney.  The attorneys with Brilliant & Neiman LLC are not only experienced (each with over twenty years’ experience), but both are also Certified as  Specialists in the Practice of Workers’ Compensation Law.