You Be the Judge

Was Fall Outside Building Within Course of Employment?

Employee claims the location where she was injured was not a parking area, but a part of the workplace.
By: | January 19, 2015

A lab technician assistant for Bardahl Manufacturing completed her work for the day and left the building through an “employees only” door. After walking about 15 steps, she slipped and fell on a patch of black ice.

The assistant fell near a drain in a paved area just outside Bardahl’s facility. Employees had set out an ashtray in the paved area to use as a smoking area. Bardahl generally did not use this area to conduct business, but it was occasionally used for storage, and employees frequently dumped buckets of water used in the business in the drain. Employees customarily parked in the paved area in front of the doors. The assistant believed one car was parked in the area where she fell.

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After she fell, the assistant experienced significant pain and sought medical treatment. She sought workers’ compensation benefits.

The Department of Labor and Industries determined that her injuries were not covered under workers’ compensation because they occurred in a parking area and had not occurred in the course of employment. An industrial appeals judge and the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals affirmed the department’s decision. The trial court also affirmed. The assistant appealed.

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How the Court Ruled 

The court explained that injuries occurring in parking areas while going to or from work are not covered under workers’ compensation. Evidence showed that the area in which the assistant fell had been used as a parking area for more than 50 years. At the time the assistant fell, at least one car was parked in the area between the employee-only entrance and the drain.

B is incorrect. The court explained that the parking area exception does not apply if the area was part of the worker’s job site. It is not enough that the parking area is a job site to some workers. The area must be a job site to the worker claiming benefits. Here, no evidence showed that the area was a job site to the assistant. At the time of her fall, she was not performing work duties but was on her way home.

C is incorrect. The court rejected the assistant’s argument that she was injured on a hazardous route. The hazardous route rule extends coverage to areas not owned or controlled by the employer under certain circumstances. Here, the rule did not apply because it was undisputed that the area of the assistant’s accident was owned by Bardahl. Even if the rule applied, the assistant’s injury was not compensable because it occurred in a parking area while she was on her way home from work.

A is correct. In an unpublished decision, the Washington Court of Appeals found that the assistant’s injury did not occur in the course of employment. Dillon v. Department of Labor and Industries, No. 70923-2-I (Wash. Ct. App. 12/08/14, unpublished).

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]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]