You Be the Judge

Is Injury on Public Street Covered by Workers’ Comp?

The court considers whether an off-premises injury occurred within the course of employment.
By: | December 9, 2016 • 3 min read

A French and Spanish professor for the University of South Carolina was reviewing resumes in the library on behalf of a search committee looking to hire a new professor.

She left the library when it closed. To reach her car, which was in a university lot provided for faculty and student parking, she had to cross a public street. While crossing the street, the professor was struck by a vehicle and injured.

The street and crosswalks were not owned or controlled by the university but were maintained and controlled by the city. Both the library and the parking lot belonged to the university.

The professor sought workers’ compensation benefits. The university’s insurer, State Accident Fund, denied the claim on the basis that the professor was injured away from the university’s property.

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The professor appealed, and the Court of Appeals held that her injuries did not arise out of and in the course of employment. The professor appealed.

Was the commission correct in finding that the professor’s injury was not compensable?

  • A. No. The professor was injured attempting to leave the university’s premises by traveling a direct route from the library to her car in a parking lot provided for employee and student parking.
  • B. Yes. The professor was not on the university’s property when she was injured.
  • C. Yes. The professor was not required to use the parking lot across the street from the library.

How the Court Ruled

B is incorrect. The court found no justification to deny compensation just because the accident occurred while the professor was crossing a public road. The professor was injured traveling between two portions of the university’s premises as anticipated at the end of her workday, so her injuries were compensable.

C is incorrect. The court found it relevant that the university allowed the professor to park in the lot across the street from the library, and once she did, the necessity of crossing the public street arose.

The university could not avail itself of the benefits that came from providing its employees a place to park and then disclaim responsibility for the consequences of that decision.

A is correct. In Davaut v. University of South Carolina, No. 27673 (S.C. 10/26/16), the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the professor’s injury was compensable, as her injury arose out of and in the course of her employment.

The court held that workers who must cross a public way that bisects an employer’s premises and who are injured on that public way while traveling a direct route between an employer’s facility and parking lot are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

The court rejected the university’s argument that the adoption of the divided premises rule would be unworkable. The university asserted that under this rule a worker injured while traveling between two portions of an employer’s premises will be compensable regardless of the reason for the travel or the route taken by the worker.

The court explained that a worker must still be injured in the performance of her employment “duties and while fulfilling those duties or engaged in something incidental thereto.”

Editor’s note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.

Christina Lumbreras is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

As risk manager for a cloud computing and software company, Laurie LeLack knows that the interconnected economy and cyber security remain top risks.
By: | December 14, 2017 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

One of my first jobs was actually at a local insurance agency when I was a high school student, before I had any idea I was going to get into insurance. After college, I was a claims analyst at Sunbeam.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

I fell into it after college, where I studied international business. I had a stack of resumes, and Sunbeam came to Florida from Rhode Island, so I applied. I interviewed with the director of risk management and just stuck with it and worked my way up.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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Getting a holistic view of risk. Risk managers are understanding how to get all stakeholders together, so we understand how each risk is aligned. In my view, that’s the only way to properly protect and serve our organizations.

R&I: What could the risk management community do better?

We’ve come a long way, but we still have to continue breaking down silos at organizations. You also have to make sure you really understand your business model and your story so you can communicate that effectively to your broker or carrier. Without full understanding of your business, you can’t assess your exposures.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Being on the East Coast, I like Philadelphia.

Laurie LeLack, Senior Director, Corporate Risk and Americas Real Estate, Citrix Systems Inc.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Organizations understanding their cyber risk exposures and how this line of insurance can best protect them. Five to ten years ago, people shrugged it off as something just for technologies companies. But you can really see the trend ticking up as a must-have. It was always something that was needed, but people came to their own defining moments as we got more involved in electronic content and social media globally. Cyber risk is inherent in the way we do business today.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

The advent of security and contractual obligations. These are concerns as we all play a part in this big web of a global economy. There’s that downstream effect — who’s going to be best insulated at the end of the day should something transpire, and did we set the right expectations?

R&I: Is the contingent commission controversy overblown?

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I think so. At the end of the day, it’s all about the transparency you’re getting from the people you work with. I think some best practices in transparency came out of the situation, but we were working on a fee basis, so it wasn’t as much of an issue for us as it may have been for other companies.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I’m cautiously optimistic. We seem to be stable in terms of growth, and I’m hoping that the efficiencies and the economies of scale we achieve through technology will benefit us. But I’m also worried about the impact that could have on the number of jobs globally.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Robert O’Connor, my former director when I was first on-boarded at Sunbeam, gave me so many valuable tidbits. I’ll call him to this day if I have an idea I want to bounce off him. He’s a good source of comfort and guidance.

R&I: Of what accomplishment are you most proud?

I have two very empathetic, healthy and happy boys. Eleven and soon-to-be 14.

On the professional side, there were a lot of moments during my career at Citrix where we were running a very lean organization, so I had the opportunity to get involved in many different projects that I probably wouldn’t have had in other larger organizations.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

My favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

A place in Santa Barbara called Bouchon.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

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Caverns in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They were interesting. It was cool to see these stalagmites and stalactites that have been growing for millions of years, and then just above ground there are homes from the 1950s.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity in which you’ve ever engaged?

Riding on the back of my husband’s Harley.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I like educating people and helping them find their ‘aha’ moment when you highlight areas of risk they may not have thought about. It allows people to broaden their horizons a little bit when we talk about risk and try to explore it from a different angle. I try not to be the person who always says “No” because it’s too risky, but find solutions that everyone is comfortable with given a risk profile.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I tell my kids I protect people and property and sometimes the things you can’t feel or touch.




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]