Is Accident Crossing Street During Break Compensable?
A worker for US Bank Home Mortgage was entitled to a one-hour unpaid lunch break and two 15-minute paid breaks per day. US Bank did not have an on-site cafeteria, but it had a lunch room and vending machine. During breaks, employees were allowed to leave the premises, and they often did, going to fast-food restaurants located across the busy four-lane street.
A coworker was absent, so the worker worked through her lunch break. In the afternoon, she signed out for her paid afternoon break with the intention of going across the street to get something to eat from a fast-food restaurant. The worker crossed the street between two intersections where there was no crosswalk. The worker was struck by a car and sustained mental and physical injuries. The worker sought workers’ compensation benefits.
The administrative law judge concluded that the worker’s injury occurred while she was within the course and scope of her employment. The Workers’ Compensation Board concluded that the ALJ did not err. The court of appeals affirmed the board. US Bank appealed, arguing that the worker’s injury occurred outside the course and scope of her employment.
How the Court Ruled
A is incorrect. The court explained that the fact that the worker’s break was short in duration, paid, and sanctioned by US Bank indicated that US Bank had authority over her. However, other factors, including the fact that the worker was free to go wherever she pleased and do whatever she wanted on her break, showed US Bank’s lack of authority. Also, the worker voluntarily exposed herself to a hazard that negated any authority US Bank had over her.
C is incorrect. A dissenting judge opined that employer-generated time pressure is a control factor. The court found that the hazard the worker encountered outweighed the other factors.
B is correct. The Kentucky Supreme Court held that the worker’s injuries sustained while crossing the street during a paid break were not within the course and scope of her employment. US Bank Home Mortgage v. Schrecker, No. 2012-SC-000665-WC (Ky. 12/18/14).
The court concluded that by crossing the street between intersections and walking in front of a moving vehicle, the worker voluntarily exposed herself to a hazard so completely outside those normally encountered in going to or coming from work as to negate any authority US Bank had over her. The court also found that the worker deviated from normal going and coming activity by crossing the street between intersections. The deviation also barred her off-premises injury claim.
The court also pointed out that the worker’s action in failing to yield to a vehicle on the roadway was expressly prohibited by state law and impliedly forbidden by US Bank.
Editor’s note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.